DENVER – A Denver Police Department officer critically injured by a hit-and-run driver is out of the hospital, but faces a long road to recovery. Technician Matthew Graves was on duty on Dec. 18 when a driver hit his vehicle, causing it to roll over. The other driver fled but was caught a short time later.
“They said if it would've been 6 to 8 inches over further, I would've been dead. It would've crushed me. I was trapped in the vehicle for two hours while they tried to get me out," said Graves.
His wife Lynée said she did not think it would happen to them.
"Being married to a police officer, I thought that I would lose him to a shooting, not a traffic accident," said Lynée.
Matthew has spent the past month in the hospital. He suffered broken bones in his arm, leg and pelvis.
“I ended up breaking my pelvis in five places, so I have a bar running across the top of my pelvis and then a jigsaw puzzle put back together, basically," Graves said.
Graves has had three surgeries and will need more in the future. He also had an initial brain bleed that has healed over time.
Graves has been surrounded by his coworkers, friends and family.
“They've been there through the whole, entire thing. Especially my wife... just can't imagine what she's been through in all this. I mean, I was sleeping," Graves said.
The Graves family is strong, and so is their faith. They attend Orchard Church of Brighton.
“Our pastor’s wife asked for prayers shortly after the crash. I think everyone was storming the gates of Heaven just to pray for him and just to ask God to have mercy on his life, and he’s here. It’s a miracle. And it’s a miracle, too, he didn’t have any brain or spinal cord injuries. Everything is mostly fixable and even though it’s a long road, he’s going to be OK. He’s got this. He’s strong, he’s competitive, he’s motivated and he’s determined, so this, too, shall pass," Lynée said.
The rescuers that freed Graves from his vehicle came to visit him. They made him an honorary firefighter.
“The wanted to come and visit him because they couldn’t believe he was doing as well as he is, so they had to come lay eyes on him," Lynée said.
Doctors say Graves will be out of work for at least six months, and that means no off-duty work, which is a financial strain. But the Graveses say in the worst of times, they are finding the best in people.
Graves said those in the home-schooling community have been supportive.
"They’ve really stepped up and supported us. They’ve wrapped us with love and supported us and shown my wife a ton of support," Graves said.
“Homeschool Etc. in Arvada is a home-school program, one-day-a-week school for home schoolers. They’ve been instrumental financially and with prayer and meal support. Also there is a home-school support called 'R-Hom' in Thornton who has rallied around us with gift cards and support as well," Lynée said.
The family has also received support from John Adsit, a retired Denver police officer who was hit and critically injured on the job in December 2014. John started the non-profit organization Adsit Strong Foundation to support first responders injured on the job.
“John came and visited us and shared his story. He really just is incredible and really uplifted me," Graves said.
Lynée said the support has been overwhelming and she wants to thank the community for the financial help, the prayers and the emotional support.
“I think I’ve said more 'thank yous' in the past month than I have in the past five years combined. I’m not a person to ask for help, so it’s humbling," she said.
The couple's kids have nicknamed him Robocop, and no one doubts his ability to bounce back.
“He’s a strong man. He’s very determined. That’s why we all know he’s going to be back at work in six months," his mother, Alecia said.
“I’ve always looked at Matt as my superman. He’s so tough all the time. He’s been tough his whole life -- ever since he was a kid. Looks like a load of kryptonite hit him, but he’ll come back," said his father, David Graves.
And even with all he's going through right now, Graves cannot wait to go back to work.
“I love my job. I love where I work, the people I work with. It’s a cliché people say cops, we like helping people. We do. We truly do," Graves said.
The Denver dispatchers are holding a fundraiser for Technician Matthew Graves this Sunday and Monday, open to all first responders. Businesses from around the metro area have stepped up to help, donating food and items for a silent auction. Donors include: Maggiano’s, Jim & Nick's, Olive Garden, King Soopers, Sam's Club, US Veteran's Woodwork LLC, Denver's Finest Barber Lounge, Galls, Blue Star Supply, Safeway, Starbucks and Costco. The Denver Police Museum donated an original badge from the 1960s. The Denver Broncos donated a signed football for the silent auction. The Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets and Kroenke Sports Charities have also donated autographed items.
You can also make a donation at the Rocky Mountain Law Enforcement Federal Credit Union. The account number is 24000012, the Matthew Graves Fund. The address if you’d like to mail donations is 700 West 39th Avenue, Denver, CO 80216.