Matt Pearce walked with a cane Wednesday, and a large bandage still covered the right side of his face.
But Pearce, a Fort Worth police officer critically wounded in a shootout in March, was in good spirits, wearing a Seattle Seahawks cap with a bright green bill and a “Team Pearce” T-shirt.
“Mentally, I’m 100 percent,” Pearce said after a meet-and-greet event with Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi.
Rossi was in town visiting police officers at the public safety headquarters ahead of the Firestone 600 Indy car race at Texas Motor Speedway on Aug. 27.
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The speedway is offering free admission to the race for all first responders. Eddie Gossage, track president, presented 200 tickets to Fort Worth’s academy training class.
Pearce, a racing fan who worked off-duty at races at the speedway during the past five years, was shot multiple times on March 15 while chasing two suspects — a father and a son — through a wooded area in far west Fort Worth.
One of the shots shattered his right femur and another hit him in the face. He was hospitalized for two months.
“You’re not going to find a doctor on this planet who expected me to live,” Pearce said.
Physically, Pearce said he’s “probably 50 percent” recovered.
“Just due to the catastrophic break of my leg, that’s really the one thing that’s kind of dragging me down,” he said.
But he’s planning a comeback.
“The recovery is actually going a lot better than I thought it would go,” he said. “If you had told me the day I got hurt, how bad I was hurt, that I’d be where I am now five months later, I probably would have called you a liar.”
He said he hopes to return to work full-time by March, a year after the shooting, and he plans to join the department’s Tactical Medical Unit, which was revitalized after one of its officers helped save him in March.
“Not a lot of people know what you’re going through when you’re lying in the middle of a field bleeding to death,” Pearce said. “You can’t tell somebody how that is. But I want people to realize that no matter how bad it gets, it is possible to overcome.”
Before Wednesday’s event, Pearce talked with Rossi, recalling details of the shooting.
“With movies and TV, you kind of take for granted what police officers do,” Rossi said. “And then you speak to someone who’s in a real-life scenario putting their life on the line.
“It gives you a massive reality check.”
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