Call it a slide forward in the recovery process for Tom Wagstaff.
The presence Friday of the Independence Police officer, who was critically wounded in the line of duty nearly 11 months ago, highlighted the Kansas City Mavericks' First Responders Night at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
Wagstaff addressed the Mavericks in the locker room before they took the ice for their warmups before their game against the Allen Americans, then was wheeled onto the ice and made the ceremonial first puck drop after everyone in the arena viewed a short video about the officer's injury and recovery.
Wagstaff returned to Independence and then home to Raytown with a fanfare escort Dec. 8 after rehabbing at two facilities in Nebraska, working to regain basic movements after, incredibly, he survived a bullet to the head March 29. In the full video produced by the Mavericks, he said it meant a lot to take part in Friday's activities.
“One of things I've loved doing with my family, my kids, is taking them to sporting events,” he said.
His main goal, he said, is being able to fully walk again.
“Right now I don't have control over my left leg,” Wagstaff said in the video, “so I want to walk again, to be able to participate in my family's life like I used to be able to.”
After his injury and surviving the first several days, Wagstaff first opened his eyes April 4.
Dr. Roger Ray, the neurosurgeon who treated Wagstaff at Centerpoint Medical Center, acknowledged his surprise when Wagstaff started to follow commands and was opening his eyes.
“Most folks with an injury like his probably wouldn't even survive,” Ray said in the video, “so for him to do the things he was doing was extremely unusual, maybe even a miracle.”
Wagstaff was shot after he and several other officers responded to a burglary and home invasion. The person who called police is a friend of the burglary victim who had access to a surveillance video feed from the victim's house and noticed the crime. In the video, Wagstaff said he saw suspects from behind the house, then moved toward the garage door when the suspects realized police had the house surrounded and went to steal the burglary victim's car.
Four men have been charged in the case – two alleged burglars who fled the home in a stolen vehicle by busting through the garage door, then were arrested after a short chase, and two others who drove the burglars to the neighborhood. They all have pleaded not guilty and await trial this spring and summer.
Numerous fundraisers took place in the months following the incident to support Wagstaff's recovery and his family.
The second intermission of the game included the annual broomball game between Independence police and fire departments. The police team scored the lone goal to claim the golden broom-and-dustpan trophy.
Wagstaff ended the video by thanking the fans and community for their prior and continued support.
“I'm back,” he said, “and I really, really appreciate it!”