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Denver officer hit by fire truck during 2023 Nuggets championship parade returns to the force

"I've tried to really make sure that things I'm doing today make tomorrow better," he says.
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Posted at 3:59 PM, Apr 04, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-08 10:46:51-04

DENVER — With a multi-ton fire truck crushing his leg in the middle of a parade downtown, Denver Police Sgt. Justin Dodge made a snap decision: He would survive and fight for his comeback.

"I'm an incredibly average person, but the one thing that I do have is drive," he said. "I knew in my heart this was not going to be my last operation."

Since then, Dodge said he has traveled down "an incredibly difficult road."

Watch him speak about his recovery with Denver7 and other media in the player below.

DPD officer hit by firetruck during 2023 Nuggets parade returns to the force

On the afternoon of June 15, 2023, as the Denver Nuggets 2023 Championship Parade made its way through downtown, Dodge, who had been on the force for nearly three decades and on the SWAT unit for 19 years, walked alongside a fire truck carrying several Nuggets players. His job was to keep people out of the way of the large, moving vehicle as it slowly meandered the streets.

Around 11:30 a.m., as the firetruck rounded a corner at W. 13th Avenue and Cherokee Street, Dodge walked alongside the front passenger side and continued to usher people out of the way.

justin dodge denver officer injured nuggets parade

As he did this, he had to step closer to the truck, which rolled up his left leg and trapped him underneath.

Denver Chief of Police Ron Thomas said Dodge was rescued and transported to the emergency room at Denver Health, where he had surgery for a "very significant lower leg injury."

The police chief held a press briefing after the incident, which you can watch below.

Authorities provide update on Denver officer hit by firetruck and double shooting

That day, Dr. Stephen Wolf, director of emergency medicine at Denver Health, said Dodge was in stable condition, but had a "severe limb-threatening injury." He stressed that the hospital's orthopedic team would do everything in its power to preserve his leg.

Less than a month later, the father of three had his injured leg amputated below the knee. He was released from the hospital on July 10 to recover at home.

And so the long road of rehab officially started. But he had been in that mindset for a long time already.

"I truly, in my mind, was starting my rehab even with the truck on top of me," he remembered.

Throughout his recovery, Dodge underwent eight surgeries, including the amputation. He suffered "pain that you cannot describe, huge setbacks from a number n of different things" and more, he said. But he has tried his best to attack each challenge with a positive attitude.

"I've tried to really make sure that things I'm doing today make tomorrow better," he said.

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He said he is a purpose-driven person, and he was eager to prove to his family that "dad's back." But he also wanted to return to his role of helping the community and keeping people safe.

Dodge, who was previously assigned to the department's SWAT division at the time, is continuing to work toward returning to full active duty with that team. He was released on Feb. 8 to go back to a limited capacity with the department.

"So, I'm back with the SWAT team. I'm back with the metro SWAT unit," he said. "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."

Some days are good. And some aren't, Dodge said.

"There are days when everything is going right and the prosthetic is fitting correctly, sleep is good, food is good — all that kind of stuff. So you feel great," he said. "And then there are days when you have setbacks."

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That's especially true as he adapts to his new day to day with the prosthetic. His life is different now, he explained simply.

"I go from a very capable person, ready to get back to team leader, operation on our SWAT team and at the end of the night, that leg comes off and I'm on a walker," he said. "It's that dichotomy of these two worlds that I live in."

Dodge said he is thankful for the enormous outpouring of support from his family, friends and the community. He said he hopes he serves as an example of taking control of your life and believing you can put in the work to accomplish your goals.

Dodge was invited to throw the first pitch for the Colorado Rockies on their Opening Day Friday afternoon.

"For the Rockies to honor me by helping me get out there and show people you can come back through very difficult times — as long as I throw the pitch actually into the catcher's glove — it is an honor and I'm very blessed," he said.

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