PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Almost a year after the horrific tragedy at Squirrel Hill’s Tree of Life Synagogue, heroic officers injured in the gunfire are still recovering.
Pittsburgh Public Safety says three of the six officers wounded are still recovering and have not returned to the job a year after they ran into the synagogue to put an end to the killing.
While they say the time is not yet right for the officers to speak, Public Safety wants to share an update, as well as written statements from three of the officers.
Officers Michael Smidga, John Persin and Tyler Pashel have all recovered and returned to work. Smidga suffered a shrapnel wound to the head, Persin suffered a concussion and hearing issues and Pashel injured his knee.
Pittsburgh Police Officer Dan Mead and SWAT Officers Anthony Burke and Timothy Matson are still recovering. Officer Mead was shot in the hand, Officer Burke was shot in the hand and Officer Matson suffered multiple gunshot wounds.
Public Safety says the three hope to rejoin the line of duty soon.
Here are each of their statements.
From Officer Dan Mead:
“There’s no reason why I should still be living, but I am and I want to thank everyone for everything they did and continue to do to support me.
I want to thank the Jewish Community, my family including my sister Diane and my girlfriend Lisa, Pittsburgh Police and all the other police departments, the firemen, the medics, the doctors — everybody. It was a huge team effort and I want to thank everybody for helping me.
The Jewish Community’s support and the ways they have shown their appreciation — I’m not used to that. As a carpenter, I would do a job and you’d say, ‘Hey, nice job,’ and I’d leave and go do the next job. But they have been so appreciative, and it’s overwhelming. They’re saying thank you, but I need to say thank you to them.
My father was on this job and I looked up to him and that’s why I signed up to be a police officer. I tried for this job. I wasn’t drafted into it. These poor people that lost their lives and their families, they didn’t sign up for that. Not a day goes by that I don’t say my prayers for these people. I feel for them.
I was an officer in the wrong place at the right time. I was never one of these super cops, but when it’s time to take care of business, you take care of business. That’s what we signed up for and that’s what we did.”
From Officer Anthony Burke:
“To all those who helped support my fiancée and me over this time of healing, you have my utmost gratitude.
I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically thank the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh for their enormous and unparalleled support, without which the burden of everyday life would be unbearable. I sincerely cannot thank you enough.
To the Pittsburgh community and the people who volunteered, donated, and supported my recovery, all I can say is: Yinz are the best.
To my coworkers and their families, my brothers and sisters in blue in Pittsburgh and from around the country, thank you for watching my six, and thank you for taking care of Sam and me. I can’t wait until I’m back in service running calls alongside you.
While my period of healing is coming to an end, there are 11 families who continue to grieve and heal. Please direct your continued support towards them during this tragic weekend and going forward.”
From Officer Timothy Matson:
“I would like to thank the community, my friends, family and coworkers, and people from across the world for their support. The support I received was incredible. I have never experienced anything like it. In more ways than I can express, your support helped me through the toughest time of my life.
I would like to thank the UPMC staff that took care of me. After the lengthy stay and multiple surgeries the list of people to thank is long, but I would like you all to know that the lengths you went to put me back together and take care of my needs will never be forgotten.
I would also like (to) thank my Pittsburgh SWAT teammates. Your actions that day are why I’m here.”
Pittsburgh Public Safety also says the officers expressed their gratitude for the prayers and thoughts they’ve received from the community following the Tree of Life tragedy.