PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — On a typical day, Officer James Kuzak travels to UPMC Mercy for physical therapy as part of his long journey back from a near fatal shooting in April, but today is not typical.
“It’s been a rough day,” he said.
Once again, tragedy hits western Pennsylvania law enforcement. The death of Officer John Dryer is the ninth fatal shooting of an officer since State Police Corporal Joseph Pokorny in 2005.
Most recently, Lower Burrell Officer Derek Kotecki was killed in October, leaving surviving officers like Kuzak questioning why the public would fire on police.
“I think the stress is placed on every person in today’s world with the economics, with losses of jobs, everything,” Kuzak said. “The stress starts to get to people and I think it just carries over into a lot of their interactions with police.”
Still fresh in the hearts and minds of all Pittsburgh police officers is the murder of three officers in April 2009. Chuck Hanlon of the Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police is also searching for answers.
“I think we’re just living in a more violent society these days,” he said. “When the police are under attack, who’s protecting the lawful people — the people who are trying to live a good life?”
Also killed in the line of duty were FBI Agent Sam Hicks in 2008, Penn Hills Officer Michael Crawshaw in 2009 and State Trooper Paul Ritchie in 2010.
Thinking of them, Kuzak considers himself to be one of the lucky ones to have survived and vows that with hard work he’ll walk again.
“If I keep progressing at the rate I am right now, yes I will,” he said.