PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Clairton Police Officer Jim Kuzak was shot five times while answering a home invasion call back on April 4, 2011.
Paralyzed from the waist down, he’s been forced to lean on his family, his girlfriend and friends, including some he’d never met.READ MORE: 2 Charged In Gunfire During Racial Justice March
Maggie Hardy Magerko, owner of 84 Lumber, learned that the wounded officer was raising funds for a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. So she cut to the chase, and bought him one.
“You’re an inspiration to all of us,” she said, at a news conference at company headquarters in 84. “I mean, you were there to help and put yourself on the line, and we’re blessed to help you.”
A company called “Mobility Works” specializes in wheelchair-fitted vans.
But employee Peter Weagraff says, “The first time I met Jim, he made it pretty clear to me that he was not going to drive a mini-van, or a soccer mom’s van. That is, I believe, what he said.”
Officer Kuzak lifts himself into the seat of the truck, at wheelchair level. Everything else is remote controlled, which includes hoisting his wheelchair into the bed of the truck.READ MORE: COVID-19 In Pennsylvania: State Health Department Reports 2,610 New Coronavirus Cases, 44.1% Of Adult Pennsylvanians Fully Vaccinated
But this more than just a truck. This vehicle and Officer Kuzak are a team.
The adjective that describes Officer Kuzak best is independent. And now, three and a half years after that terrible night in Clairton, he has that independence back.
“I have a hand control instead of foot control,” he says. “And the hand controls are just to the right of my leg. You push it forward for brake and pull it back for gas. And that’s it.”
Officer Kuzak is comfortable with his new truck. But he never takes it for granted.
“Every time I see it, I still can’t believe it,” he said to the assembled crowd. “Thank you so much.”MORE NEWS: Pittsburgh Police Safely Locate Previously Missing Teen Siobhan Barnett
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