Matt Pearce had just a four percent chance to live.
In a gun battle with a wanted felon on March 15, five bullets ripped through the Fort Worth officer’s body, creating seven gunshot wounds. His injuries included a collapsed lung, a punctured diaphragm, a shattered right femur, a broken jaw, damage to his liver and spleen, and a nicked heart.
A former firefighter medic in the state of Washington, Pearce said he knew as he lay bleeding that he was hurt critically. He refused to even consider that he might be dying.
“That’s the one thing that scares the crap out of me — not being around for my kids,” said Pearce. “I think that’s the reason I fought so hard. I remember laying in that field and telling myself, ‘I will not die. I refuse to die. I want to see my kids.’ Family was the first thing that came to mind.”
Pearce, one of the Star-Telegram’s top newsmakers of 2016, says he is living proof that miracles can happen.
His shooting was one of many high-profile attacks on police in 2016, including the fatal shooting of Euless officer David Hofer on March 1 and the ambush on officers in Dallas that killed five, including Fort Worth native Patrick Zamarripa.
Though it’s only been nine months since his shooting, Pearce returned to work in October, working light duty in the tactical medic unit. He continues physical therapy three times a week and said he hopes to be back full-duty by mid 2017.
“If you don’t believe in God, come talk to me,” Pearce said. “There’s no reason I should have made it out of that field. There’s not a doctor out there that would have told you, ‘He’s going to be OK. Things are fine.’ ”
Vivid memories of shootout
Pearce said he remembers well the details of that March day as he chased after Ed McIver Sr., who, along with his 20-year-old son, had just bailed out of a vehicle after refusing to pulling over for police.
“He fled and jumped the fence and he hunkered down in the grass,” Pearce said. “When I came over the fence, that’s when he stood up out of the grass. I thought he ran up the hill. He hadn’t.”
Even more vividly, he remembers the gun battle that followed.
“It’s like it’s in the movies where everything slows down to extremely slow motion,” Pearce said. “That’s exactly what happened. I could see the nose of that bullet in the barrel of the gun when he raised it and pointed it at me. It was just that slow.”
If you don’t believe in God, come talk to me. There’s no reason I should have made it out of that field.
Matt Pearce, Fort Worth police officer
Before Pearce could unholster his gun, he had been shot in the leg, his femur shattered.
As he exchanged gunfire with McIver Sr., he felt the bullets strike his shoulders and his face and knew instantly that his lung had collapsed.
“It’s like someone just walks up to you and punches you in the stomach as hard as they can,” he said. “Now you’ve got to try to catch your breath but you’ve got to breathe through a straw.”
Other officers on the scene began searching for the downed officer and spotting only the lower part of a leg sticking out from the high brush, they screamed at the person to show their hands.
Pearce said it took everything he had to summon the strength to call out “Blue” so they would know it was officer down and not the suspect.
The gunman had been fatally shot by Sgt. C. Luttmer, but the other suspect, Ed McIver Jr., was still at large.
Giving thanks to others
Pearce praised Luttmer for saving countless other lives.
“He (McIver Sr.) was hell-bent on killing as many people as he could before he went out,” Pearce asid.
James Mintor, the first officer to find Pearce, stood guard over him while Brandi Kamper, a tactical medical officer, provided emergency aid to Pearce until he could be loaded into a helicopter and flown to the hospital.
Pearce said his last memory was of being taken out of the helicopter ambulance after it landed at John Peter Smith Hospital and being moved onto a emergency room cot.
He would spend two weeks in a medically-induced coma, awaking on his oldest daughter’s third birthday. Still, he would not be able hug his two daughters until several weeks later after he had been moved from the hospital to in-patient therapy.
“I never wanted them to see me hooked into machines, tubes coming out of me,” Pearce said. “I didn’t want them to remember that image of me.”
He is overwhelmed by the support friends, family and even the strangers showed his family in the wake of the shooting. He said he rarely can go out in public without somebody recognizing him and thanking him.
And though he has received multiple awards for his bravery, Pearce is quick to give credit to the other officers who risked their lives to save his.
“This wasn’t just a ‘me’ thing,” Pearce said. “There was 300 officers out there. They were all in danger, at any given time, for 4 1/2 hours until we found (McIver Jr.).”
“It was a very big group effort, and I’m not going to take credit for any of it without sharing the limelight with my co-workers because they risked their lives just as much as I did that day. I’m just the one who got hurt during the process.”