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Denver officer hit by fire truck during Nuggets parade rejoins SWAT team, throws first pitch at Rockies opener

Sgt. Justin Dodge, whose left leg was amputated below the knee after the fire truck rolled over it, is the only amputee officer on the city’s 1,500-member force


Denver police Sgt. Justin Dodge gestures after throwing the ceremonial first pitch before the Colorado Rockies home opener against the Tampa Bay Rays at Coors Field in Denver on Friday, April 5, 2024. Dodge, a 27-year DPD veteran, was was hit by a Denver fire truck during last year’s Nuggets parade, resulting in the loss of his leg. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Andy Cross/TNS

By Shelly Bradbury
The Denver Post

DENVER — The Denver police officer who was hit by a fire truck during the Nuggets’ championship parade last year has returned to work on the department’s SWAT team, becoming the only amputee-officer on the city’s 1,500-member force.

“I truly, in my mind, was starting my rehab even with the truck on top of me,” Sgt. Justin Dodge said during a news conference Thursday. “I’m an incredibly average person, but the one thing I do have is, I have drive. And I knew in my heart, this was not going to be my last operation.”

Dodge’s left leg was amputated below the knee after a Denver fire truck rolled over it as he walked beside the truck among throngs of people during the Nuggets’ parade on June 15 .

He was cleared to return to work in a limited capacity on Feb. 8 , he said Thursday, and rejoined the SWAT team, which has been his assignment for 19 of his 27 years as a Denver police officer.

“I’m basically doing everything that the team would be expected to do operationally, I’m just doing it at a training level right now,” he said.

Dodge underwent eight surgeries after he was hit by the fire truck, which was carrying Nuggets players including Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray . He’s had good days and bad since returning to work, he said.

“There are days when everything is going right and the prosthetic is fitting correctly, sleep has been good, food has been good and all that, so you feel great,” he said. “And then there are days when you have setbacks… I go from a very capable person ready to get back, team leader operationally on a SWAT team, and at the end of the night, that leg comes off, and I’m on a walker. So it’s that dichotomy of these two worlds that I live in where, I’m out there, doing this, but (that) is also one of the realities as well.”

Although he is the sole amputee on Denver’s police force, he is not the first or only amputee in Colorado law enforcement. Colorado Springs police Officer Ben Lunak , whose leg was partially amputated, joined the department in 2018 and is still on the job, spokesman Ira Cronin said. Also, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation is led by director Chris Schaefer , who is also a leg amputee.

“I’m not the least bit surprised Justin has reached the point where he’s able to rejoin Denver’s SWAT Team,” Schaefer said in a statement Friday. “As a fellow amputee, I know how long and hard the recovery process is, (and) how important it is for your physical and mental health to continue the work you love. Justin and I became friends after his accident and his positive attitude isn’t just impressive, it’s inspirational.”

Dodge was tapped to throw a first pitch at the Colorado Rockies’ home opener Friday, an honor he said came as a surprise. He hopes his return to the force will inspire others to take control of their lives.

“I’m trying to be an example that if you do that, with a good support system, with a belief that you can do it, and putting in the work, that you can accomplish great things, even through tragedy,” he said.

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