When wounded police officer Matt Pearce was rolled into an emergency room on Tuesday, he was yelling, mad that one of the shooting suspects was still loose.
“He’s a pretty friendly, outgoing guy until someone directly breaks the law when he’s on duty,” said Josh DeWinter, a friend from their days at Washington State University.
“I can see him being the type who almost was too angry to die.”
Pearce, 36, remained in critical condition Wednesday evening at John Peter Smith Hospital. He was shot Tuesday while he and other officers were chasing two men in a field in far west Fort Worth.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Officers killed Ed McIver, one of the men suspected of shooting Pearce, and later arrested his son, Ed McIver Jr.
People who know Pearce say he embraces service to others — as a firefighter, police officer and friend.
“I think it’s built into his DNA,” said Mari Clark, who grew up with Pearce in Yakima, Wash.
She said that when they were in high school, Clark’s father was struck by a drunken driver. Pearce and his mother drove 30 minutes to Clark’s home, took her to the hospital and stayed by her side in the emergency room all night.
This week, it’s Pearce’s family and fellow officers who are staying by his side at John Peter Smith Hospital.
“When he was brought in yesterday, he was very unhappy, needless to say,” Mayor Betsy Price said at a news conference Wednesday. “But mostly he wanted to fight and be back where he belonged.
“The doctors say he’s a fighter.”
Aaron Ritter, another friend from Washington, said he always knew Pearce was a “natural leader.” He saw it high school, when Pearce played soccer and led their church’s youth group on mission trips.
And Ritter sees it now, he said, in the way Pearce is protective of his two young daughters.
“He was always that friend who was very reliable,” Ritter said. “If you needed something, he’s the guy who would come and do it.”
Pearce lived in Fort Worth before his family moved to Washington when he was a child, Ritter said. Ritter met Pearce when they were about 9. Their families, both new to town, grew close and spent Christmases together.
After graduating from West Valley High School in 1998, Pearce enrolled at WSU in Pullman.
While there, he joined the Pullman Fire Department as a reserve firefighter with duties ranging from fighting fires to painting hydrants.
“Through all of the sweat and the stress and the strain we put on recruits, you could always hear him laughing in the background,” said Ryan Scharnhorst, now the assistant fire chief in Pullman. “That was the kind of team player he was.”
He graduated from WSU in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice but stayed on as a firefighter for three more years.
“He was one of those guys where he wasn’t just doing it for a part-time job through college,” Scharnhorst said.
Pearce later moved back to Fort Worth. He returned to Wedgwood Baptist Church, which his family attended when he was a child, and soon expressed an interest in joining the Fort Worth Police Department, said Debbie Gillette, the pastor’s administrative assistant at Wedgwood.
On Tuesday, another officer called Gillette, and she called her husband, who has been a Fort Worth officer since the 1980s.
“We put the word out to our church family to pray, because we knew it was life-threatening,” Gillette said.
She also talked to Pearce’s mother, who had gone home to rest Wednesday afternoon.
“Truthfully, she’s totally putting her trust in God to heal his body,” Gillette said. “We know it’s going to take a while.”