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Against all odds: A Kansas City, Missouri, police officer's story of survival

Tyler Moss
Tyler Moss
Tyler Moss
Tyler Moss
Tyler Moss and Rick Smith
Tyler Moss at University Health
Posted at 3:00 PM, May 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-18 07:26:34-04

KANSAS CITY, MO — Nearly two years after Tyler Moss, a Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department officer, was shot while in the line of duty, KSHB 41 News spoke to him about his recovery.

"I do ultimately have a bullet in my head, which is, I mean it's not cool, but it's kind of cool at the same time, I think," Moss said. "There's not many people that can say that."

It's hard to imagine being able to laugh off an injury that, by all accounts, should have been fatal.

But that's just Moss, according to those who know him. He still has a great sense of humor and a positive outlook on life despite all he's been through.

It's that consistency, the ability to never waver and to never show defeat that continues to amaze those around him, according to fellow members of KCPD.

At one point, a University Health surgeon estimated that Moss had a 1% of surviving.

"(It's) definitely a miracle, that's the only way to put it — a miracle,” Kris Moss, Tyler Moss' mom, said.

To better appreciate where he is today, we have to start at the beginning.

On July 2, 2020, Moss and his partner responded to reports of a man with a gun who was threatening people, outside a Kasnsas City-area McDonald's.

As officers started arriving to the scene, the suspect fired at a squad car. Then, shortly after Moss stepped out of his patrol car, he was shot in the head.

It happened in the blink of an eye, but Moss doesn't remember it.

"I don't remember going to the call," he said. "I don't remember anything after that."

His fellow officers and his family remember every detail vividly.

That includes the officers who returned fire with the suspect, risking their own safety to dash into harm's way to pull Moss to safety.

As this was happening, KCPD Sgt. Jason Childers pulled up to the scene.

He drove to the front of the line, not knowing of the horror awaiting him, because there were so many police cars lining the road.

"As I passed by some of the officers, I could see like three to four officers carrying a lifeless body of one of our officers," Childers said. "As I pulled up just hastily, we loaded him into my police car and drove him to (what was then) Truman Medical Center."

At the time, Childers didn't even know who the injured officer was, his face was so badly bloodied.

Childers said he knew he had to take the fastest route to the hospital possible, but also had to remain calm to ensure he got the injured officer there safely.

All the while, Childers heard noises from the back seat.

"The officers that rode with me did a great job of talking to him," Childers said. "He was unresponsive, but they kept talking to him the whole time."

The officers in the backseat cradled Moss' head in her lap the entire way.

The officers had radioed ahead, so staff at University Health was ready and waiting the instant they pulled up.

However, Childers didn't have high hopes at the time.

"No, I believed when we got to the hospital that we were transporting a dead officer," Childers said.

Thankfully, Moss was alive, but just barely with the clock ticking.

Doctors later said had officers waited for an ambulance to take him to the emergency room, he likely wouldn't have made it with mere minutes making the difference between life and death.

They also said the fact that he was young and in such great shape gave him a slight edge. Still, with such a severe injury, it would take everything doctors had to save him.

"The entire trauma team, we quickly put in a breathing tube and got him ready for a very rapid CAT scan of his brain," Dr. Michael Moncure, a trauma surgeon at University Health, said. "At that time, it was very evident that he had some significant damage and bleeding to the right side of his brain."

The fact that the bullet only entered one side of the brain was actually a good thing for Moss, giving him a better chance of survival, Moncure explained.

First, doctors had to remove part of Moss' skull to alleviate swelling. It was sewn into his stomach to keep the cells alive while they operated.

"The problem with the brain is that it's inside the skull, and there's no room for that swelling to grow," Moncure said. "So, if that lays unchecked, then that's going to squeeze on the good part of the brain, and that's going to cause it to have no more blood flow and that's going to be the demise of the patient."

While Moss was on an operating table fighting for his life, fellow officers flocked to the hospital.

"It was like a blink of an eye," Sgt. Jake Becchina, a KCPD public information officer, said. "Then, it was six or seven hours later, and it was dark and almost midnight, and there were dozens, hundreds of officer both inside and outside the hospital."

It was support that helped his family through those early and tense moments.

"It's our blue family," Kris Moss said. "We never really understood what it was about until we saw firsthand."

Those officers stayed by the family's side, waiting for news.

In the end, the surgery was a success.

The bullet was left in his brain to avoid further damage caused by removing it. His skull was reattached, but it was still touch and go.

When Kris Moss and her husband were finally able to see their son, it came as a great shock.

"He didn't look like Tyler," she said. "It was pretty traumatic looking at him."

The family says they drew on their faith and in Tyler's determination, staying by his side.

Within two weeks, he was strong enough to head to a specialty rehabilitation facility in Colorado.

On that day, his KCPD family was there again, lining the road at the airport as a special sendoff.

It was an emotional boost he’d need as he tackled the next challenge.

"I was in a wheelchair, I couldn't walk, I couldn't tie my shoes, I couldn't bathe myself," Tyler Moss said. "I mean, a lot of things people take for granted, I had to learn to redo."

But Tyler and say they didn't focus on what he couldn't do, they celebrated all the things he could do.

All the while Moss says the thought of giving up never occurred to him.

"There was never a time where I said I wanted to give up, because that's not the kind of person I was raised to be," he said.

Within months, his hard work paid off and he returned home to Kansas City, where once again KCPD officers were standing by to assist.

This time though, they were able to see Tyler Moss, the officer they thought they'd lost, back on his feet.

Now, those feet are leaving footsteps for new recruits to follow as he's returned to work, mentoring and teaching officers-in-training at the police academy.

While he's not sure exactly what the future holds for his career, Tyler Moss said he's committed to continuing to work in law enforcement in some capacity.

He's also determined to share his story — whether it's with recruits, fellow officers, church groups, medical groups and beyond.

"I don't know the reason I was saved, but obviously there's a reason for it," Tyler Moss said. "Whether it's to inspire other people to work through their problems, their tough times they're going through, whether it's for me to be a motivational speaker or do something with the police department in that capacity or whatever it might be, that's the reason I think I was saved."

Those who know Tyler Moss agree that he was saved for a reason.

"He's obviously a very spiritual person, a very faithful person," Becchina said. "He believes he's here for a reason. I think we all believe he's here for a reason. If nothing else, he's a gift that's been giving to our organization."

Childers said Moss' resiliency is inspiring.

"He's come so far and has such a positive attitude," Childers said. "His strength and courage, it's just unmatched."

Moss just hopes his story offers others hope and a renewed opportunity to believe in happy endings.

This Memorial Day, Moss will serve as a symbol of hope as the honoree for this year's Going the Distance for Brain Injury Race.

Robin Abramowitz, the executive director for the Brain Injury Association of Greater Kansas City and Kansas, also weighed on Moss' journey.

“Tyler’s journey offers hope and sparks the conversation about brain injuries," Abramowitz said. "The Brain Injury Association of Greater Kansas City and Kansas connects people to resources to improve outcomes for individuals living with brain injuries. The race is one of our largest fundraisers, so we encourage everyone to register, participate in the run or walk, and have fun for this good cause."

Anyone who would like to support Tyler Moss and others recovering from brain injuries is invited to join the walk or run — scheduled for Monday, May 30, at Loose Park.

It includes a 5k, 10k, 1.5 mile walk, a virtual race and a kids race.