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DENVER (KDVR) — Denver police officers who were critically injured in the line of duty over the past year-and-a-half were honored by a nonprofit group that assists officers in their time of greatest need.

The Denver Police Officers Foundation was formed in 1999. Over the years, it has helped more than 1,000 officers. The organization provides emotional support and financial assistance to Denver police officers and their immediate family members during medical emergencies and long-term illnesses.

“Our officers in the Denver Police Department did an incredible job these last 18 months,” said DPOF President Ken Chavez. “It was the most difficult year I can think of in our city’s history. There was a pandemic, there was civil unrest and protests, and there was unprecedented levels of crime that came up. So all three factors impacted these officers a lot. They still had to endure that and work through that.”

Ambushed and shot

One officer who was shot in the line of duty while responding to a trespassing call in May spoke about his ordeal and the assistance he received from the Denver Police Officers Foundation.

The officer, who did not want his name used, was ambushed and shot at close range, leaving him with severe injuries to his legs. He’s had six surgeries on his legs and is facing another one next month.

“May 8th, the call we train for and we know the risk of and we hope to avoid, happened to me,” he said.

“I was a miracle. Faith, fitness. I don’t know how I survived. It was close,” he said.

His partners applied a tourniquet at the scene, which was instrumental. The officer also praised the paramedics and the surgeons at Denver Health Medical Center for saving his life and his leg.

“My left leg is cut open from my hip to my knee. My right leg was cut open effectively from my hip to my ankle,” he said.

The officer went through a 10-hour surgery and stayed in the hospital for two-and-a-half weeks, during which he had another four surgeries and received 56 units of blood. In July, he underwent a sixth surgery after one of his wounds was infected. He now has another surgery scheduled for October.

The officer attributed the support of the community and the Denver Police Officers Foundation with helping him recover.

“The Police Officers Foundation gave me a generous gift that helped alleviate some of the financial stress. And it cemented that there is a lot of good people out there, more support out there than I ever imagined,” he said.

Surviving COVID-19

In March of 2020, Officer Maurice Oden contracted Covid while arresting a sexual assault suspect who was infected. Just when he thought he had recovered, he was diagnosed with pulmonary embolisms.

Officer Maurice Oden

“Pretty much pulmonary embolism was like I was getting stabbed over and over again. I couldn’t breathe. Every time I did breathe, tiny breaths, it was like I was being stabbed,” Oden said.

“When I was in the hospital, pretty much literally on my death bed, a group of cops came together and said, ‘You have to inform your family — let them know this might be it.’ I paid for everything, airfare and hotels to bring my family here. They didn’t think I was going to make it,” Oden said.

“Eventually when I got out of the hospital, someone got in touch with the Denver Police Officers Foundation and they were able to reimburse me for everything. Wasn’t needed, but was great,” Oden said.

He also appreciated the support.

“It’s no secret. It’s really rough to be a cop right now. What they did for me was amazing, because it established hope. It showed the silent majority isn’t so silent,” Oden said.

Officers hurt during 2020 protests

The DPOF also paid tribute to the officers who were injured during the protests and riots last year. Business owner Damon Musselman owns a jewelry shop on the 16th Street Mall. He came to the ceremony to thank the officers for protecting businesses during the civil unrest.

“The self-sacrifice, bravery, brotherhood and honor displayed by the officers on the street was extraordinary. Thanks to those of you who risk it all on a daily basis,” Musselman said.

“It makes me immensely proud, having not only served as a member of this force but also looking back now in retirement,” Chavez, the foundation’s president, said. “We need to support these officers year after year, decade after decade. These officers sometimes in times of great need, when a medical emergency happens, they often feel alone and isolated. By having the Police Officers Foundation to provide that emotional and financial support … they know they belong to a big family — not only of the department, but of the community.”

Both officers who shared their stories said they have several months of recovery left, but they look forward to getting back to work.

To support the organization, visit the Denver Police Officers Foundation website.