DENVER -- On the one-year anniversary of the shooting that critically injured him, Denver police Sgt. Tony Lopez Jr. plans to spend some quiet time with his family.
He describes the past year as "actually the best year of my life."
"It’s obviously a good day. I made it home," he said of the anniversary. "Anytime you make it home is a good day. Took me a few weeks thanks to tourniquets, cops, firefighters, paramedics and doctors and prayers from everyone in community."
Lopez was shot during a traffic stop on Dec. 8, 2015. He said there are many reasons he survived. One was his level of fitness. He worked out at a CrossFit gym six times a week before he was shot.
"Since day one, I said it saved my life. Just being in shape and having the cardio strength. My heart was still pumping when it shouldn’t have been," Lopez said.
"That is testament to what working out does. It’s important to be in shape to help other people, not just yourself, but I think when you take this job, you owe it to your family and the community that you be best prepared as you can."
He also said his wife and then-unborn baby boy were motivation for him to fight to survive.
The baby was born six months after the shooting. Lopez worked tirelessly to be able to walk again in order walk his baby out of the hospital. He did that in May.
"I’m a proud papa. Little man’s doing great," Lopez said. "Just now starting to figure out crawling. I got my legs back under me just in time, still wear a brace so I am faster than him for now. Life is good."
In fact, he has accomplished every goal he has set for himself, including returning to work full time just nine months after the shooting.
"Doctors came to have a discussion with me before I was released from the hospital. They told me I probably wouldn't be an officer again. But they obviously didn't know me. It's all I ever wanted to do," Lopez said.
"Ever since I was able to talk, I wanted to be a Denver police officer. I wasn’t ready to give it up and it's been a very good career."
He is now passionate about making sure other first responders are trained in the use of tourniquets, one of the key factors in his survival. Several police departments have changed their policies to make tourniquets standard training.
"I think it’s awesome," Lopez said. "I didn’t know how to use one before. Then having them applied and kind of feeling what it was like and knowing that was literally what saved my life, it's kind of hard to explain. It worked out, I didn’t die, super proud that a lot of people are using them."
Lopez said he doesn't know how to adequately thank everyone for the overwhelming support.
"The community, all the prayers, the donations, the outpouring of support has been unbelievable. I don’t know how you can’t thank you," Lopez said. "I’ll probably never be able to say thanks enough."
He is finding ways to give back, inspiring others who are facing obstacles of their own.AlertMe