PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — On the morning of October 27th officers Daniel Mead and Michael Smigda arrived at work early and hearing the call, immediately responded to the Tree of Life Synagogue.
They came face-to-face with a gunman leaving the building.
In the exchange, the gunman shot Officer Mead through the hand and shrapnel hit Smigda, but they forced the retreat, the gunman barricading himself in a third-floor office.
SHEEHAN: And you believe they saved lives?
WENDELL HISSRICH: I think most definitely and I won’t get into the detail as to why we feel he was going to go somewhere else but we believe he had another target — potentially more than one target — to do more damage and potentially kill more individuals.
With a trial coming up, they’re limited in what they can reveal about the events of that day, but a year after the mass murder that would take the lives of 11 people and wound two other worshippers, Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich and police Chief Scott Schubert wanted to pay homage to the heroics of their officers. Four wounded by gunfire, three of whom still have not returned to work.
“They’re heroes. They’re all heroes, everyone who went into that building, you don’t know where that person is at,” Schubert said.
After police set up a perimeter around the building, SWAT team members entered the building to rescue the wounded and subdue the gunman and after locating him in the third-floor office, a massive gun battle ensued.
Officer Anthony Burke would suffer a gunshot through the wrist and Officer Timothy Matson would be the most severely wounded, miraculously surviving multiple gunshot wounds, after he and the others forced the gunman’s surrender.
“The bravery’s there but you’ve got to look at them after this, all that they’ve gone through. The countless surgeries that they’ve gone through, living with that and each one fighting hard to come back because they want to come back and be Pittsburgh Police officers. They want to be out on the street again. They want to do their job,” said Schubert.
Today, only Smigda has returned, while Mead and Burke struggle to regain the use of their arms and hands.
Matson, who was honored earlier this year during the State Of The Union Address, has had perhaps the toughest battle.
“I can’t really talk about his injuries,” Schubert said. “I can just tell you that it’s incredible to see where he’s come today where he was just a year ago and for injuries where you don’t think someone can come back when you look at him. If anyone’s going to come back it’s going to be him.”