Matt Pearce (’02 Crim. Jus.) was not supposed to live.
But he also refused to die.
On March 15, 2016, Pearce, then in his seventh year as a patrol officer with the Fort Worth Police Department in Texas, joined the pursuit of a fugitive suspect wanted on felony charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
When the outlaw, Ed McIver, reached a rural area on Fort Worth’s western edge, he ditched his silver Ford Escape and ran into a thickly wooded area. His teenage son, meanwhile, bolted in the other direction carrying a rifle and handgun.
In chasing the elder McIver, Pearce landed on the ground after climbing over a barbed wire fence. At that moment, McIver emerged from the high brush and began shooting Pearce.
“He wasn’t but seven yards away,” Pearce says of McIver.
Two bullets entered Pearce’s shoulder. Another shattered his femur, while another broke his jaw. Bullets plunged into his lung and liver.
While McIver fled, wounded by Pearce’s return fire and soon after fatally shot by a Fort Worth Police sergeant, colleagues rallied around a vulnerable Pearce to provide immediate aid and plot an evacuation plan. Pearce was transported via helicopter to John Peter Smith Hospital, the area’s Level 1 trauma center. Doctors pegged his prospects for survival below 10 percent.
Following surgery, four weeks in the intensive care unit, and another month in inpatient therapy, Pearce improved well enough to leave the hospital—wearing a white WSU Cougars hat, no less. Still, doctors prepared the married father of two young girls for a limited future.
“I heard a lot of ‘You’ll never be able to,’” says Pearce, a Yakima, Washington, native who would not walk until four months after the shooting. “I was motivated to prove people wrong.”
And that included resuming his law enforcement career.
“I could have medically retired and no one would have said a word,” Pearce says. “But I love my job and wanted to make it back.”
After seven months of recovery and diligent rehabilitation, Pearce returned to light duty with the Fort Worth PD in October 2016. Thirteen months later, he resumed full-time work with the tactical medic team, a group of officers cross-trained in emergency medical services. His role today is to provide immediate care to others facing life-threatening conditions on the street.
“Look at how the cards were stacked against me,” Pearce says. “To win that battle and not come back to work would have meant that the bad guy won, and I wasn’t going to let that happen.”
Earnest and thoughtful, Pearce acknowledges the lasting impact of the near-fatal event. He considers himself more patient and analytical today, perhaps even more tranquil.
“I slow down and smell the flowers a bit more,” he says.
However, Pearce’s longstanding commitment to serve, which began as a reserve firefighter in Pullman following his WSU graduation, remains as steady as ever.
“I want to continue to serve my community,” he says, “and that’s what I’m going to do.”
On the web
Officer Down: The Matt Pearce Story – A year after patrol officer Matt Pearce was shot multiple times on the job, the Fort Worth Police Department released body-cam footage from the pursuit, interviews with fellow officers who were there that day, and Pearce’s release from the hospital months later.