FORT COLLINS, Colo. (KDVR) — The stepmother of a 2017 shooting victim paid a special tribute Friday morning to the officers she said saved her stepdaughter’s life.

That stepmother, Kristen Johnson, graduated from Colorado State University on Friday with a master’s degree in social work.

“It’s just surreal to think that the last three years have come to this, all that that means to me and our past,” Johnson said when looking back on the tragedy her family and the CSU community went through in 2017. “It’s amazing to be able to be here and really honor Megan, and on Megan’s behalf, honor Savannah.”

It was October 2017 when her stepdaughter Megan was shot after she and her two friends took a rideshare home.

Their driver attacked the trio, fatally shooting Tristian Kemp and Savannah McNealy and wounding Megan before he shot himself.

Johnson’s capstone project for her master’s degree in social work was a tribute to the Fort Collins police officers she credits with savings Megan’s life.

“We were just so grateful to the Fort Collins police department that responded so quickly to the shooting, and again, if their swift response had not occurred, the outcome would have been different for Megan,” Johnson said.

Project studies law enforcement recruitment, retention

The project examined the impact of public perception on law enforcement recruitment and retention.

“There was a recent report that showed resignations of law enforcement were up 43%. So we kind of wanted to dive into that as best we could with only half a semester to do the research, and we were able to interview or collect surveys from 101 officers and kind of determine that public perception does play a role in their decision to remain on the force,” Johnson said about her project.

She turned trauma into opportunity with this degree, just like Megan has.

“She is my hero without a doubt,” Johnson said. “She’s now at physician assistant school in Oregon, so we’re super proud of her. She is going to take this super tragic event in her life and turn it around for something very positive and hopefully treat patients like her one day.”