A Fort Worth, Texas, police officer who was injured on the job is planning to return to duty three years after the devastating incident left him with life-threatening injuries.
Officer Matt Brazeal will make his long-awaited return to the force after recovering from near-fatal injuries sustained in a car accident on duty. The incident unfolded on June 13, 2020, when Brazeal was struck by a speeding stolen vehicle near West Loop 820.
Brazeal had engaged in a high-speed pursuit with the driver, deploying Stop Sticks in an attempt to halt the suspect’s vehicle. Despite his actions, the driver swerved, leaving Brazeal with no time to react. With the fleeing SUV traveling at 70 to 90 miles per hour, he was pulled under the vehicle, where his duty belt snagged and he was dragged about 100 feet before it broke and freed him.
Brazeal’s injuries were severe and life-threatening, including a broken pelvis, ribs and other bones, as well as a collapsed lung and a traumatic brain injury. The extent of his injuries left his survival uncertain, but he miraculously recovered.
Over the course of his recovery, Brazeal has undergone approximately 60 surgeries totaling 108 hours, plus countless hours of rehabilitation. Despite enduring an unimaginable amount of physical pain and facing setback after setback, he continued to push forward on the road to recovery.
According to Brazeal, his success was a testament to his mental strength.
“I’ll say this, it’s tough to remain positive sometimes. When I woke up from surgery the other day and they said you can’t do anything for six more weeks, I was like what? I was like what? I was ready,” Brazeal reflected in an interview with FOX 4 News. “Like, we’ll get this little thing over with and I’ll be back in the gym. It takes a like lot of mental fortitude.”
Remarkably, Brazeal has no memory of the incident itself, which Chief Neil Noakes of the Fort Worth Police Department describes as a blessing.
“As far as his physical fitness level, his mental toughness, physical toughness, had he not had those things, I don’t know how he could’ve made it,” Noakes said. “I don’t know how he made it onto the ambulance and was able to get the emergency care he needed. As traumatic as that was, yes, I do believe it’s an absolute blessing he does not remember that.”
Noakes has been a pillar of support for Brazeal, dedicating numerous hours to visiting and assisting him throughout his lengthy recovery. Their bond and friendship have grown stronger over time, providing Brazeal with the encouragement and motivation needed to persevere.
Reflecting on his journey, Brazeal acknowledges the challenges of remaining positive but maintains an unwavering determination to regain his health fully. Recounting a recent surgery that extended his recovery timeline, Brazeal expresses his desire to return to the gym and emphasizes the mental fortitude required to overcome such obstacles.
Brazeal attributes much of his progress to the unwavering support and care provided by his wife, Candace, who has been by his side throughout the recovery process. Her presence and dedication have played a pivotal role in his healing and rehabilitation.
Meanwhile, the suspect responsible for Brazeal’s injuries, Ronnie Jackson Jr., is scheduled for trial in September 2023, where he will face criminal charges related to the incident.
With hope on the horizon, Brazeal anticipates a return to light-duty police work in July, marking a significant milestone in his recovery journey.