BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. -- After making a miraculous recovery, Independence Police Officer Tom Wagstaff is finally home.
The Independence Police Department, city officials, and the community thanked him for his sacrifice at a Saturday ceremony in his honor.
Wagstaff, his wife, and their two boys spoke publicly for the first time in eight months after their lives changed forever.
Last March, Wagstaff responded to a home burglary. As police had the house surrounded, the suspects got into a car in the garage and burst through the garage door toward the officers.
“An ensuing shootout occurred and I was struck in the head from a ricochet from one of the bullets,” Wagstaff said in a video shown at the ceremony.
Wagstaff’s wife, Stacy, said the news didn’t look good.
“The doctors told us to plan for the inevitable but I kept thinking, ‘you don’t know my Tom. You don’t know his will to survive,’” Stacy said.
The video showed Wagstaff in various stages of his rehabilitation at QLI, a facility in Nebraska.
He had to learn to talk, eat and walk all over again.
At the ceremony, he was in a wheelchair, but with Stacy’s help, he stood up with a walker.
On Friday, his fellow officers escorted him home to a large crowd of citizens in front of police headquarters.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker became choked up when thanking Wagstaff.
“Thank you for taking personal risk on behalf of my community,” she said, calling him a walking miracle.
Wagstaff’s 13-year-old son, Alex, spoke as well, at times pausing to compose himself, surrounded by his older brother, Jordan, and Stacy.
“He’s one of the greatest,” Alex said of his dad.
And in his own words, Wagstaff thanked his family for staying by his side.
“They are my true inspiration to get through it all, and all of you for the continued prayers and support,” Wagstaff said.
Wagstaff is known for his smile and positive personality. He added a little humor to his speech, showing that even a bullet to the head, which is still lodged in his brain, didn’t change who he is.
“I would like to thank Centerpoint’s medical staff for keeping me alive,” he said very matter-of-factly. The audience paused and erupted into laughter.
Independence Mayor Eileen Weir proclaimed December 9 as Officer Tom Wagstaff Day.
Wagstaff received the Purple Heart medal, honoring his service in a dangerous situation, one that could have taken his life.
More recovery is still needed in his future, but Wagstaff says the most important thing to him is being a family man again.