KTVB's Mark Johnson travels to Denver to visit with Boise Police Cpl. Kevin Holtry as he continues rehabilitation for injuries from a shooting that changed his life forever.
DENVER - Its 10:30 in the morning at Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in Denver. Cpl. Kevin Holtry is into the third hour of a day that will be completely filled with physical therapy, exercise workouts and transfer sessions designed to set him up to live a full and active life despite not having the use of his lower body.
"He's a warrior," said Dr. Mark Johansen, the hospital's medical director. "You’re not going to find a patient more motivated than Officer Holtry to get better."
Holtry has been a shining light at Craig since the day he was admitted on Jan. 5, motivating other patients going through the same catastrophic spinal injury treatment as he is. Despite the difficult rehab, he is taking it on with determination, optimism and humor.
"I will approach him and point out a patient, 'Hey, a certain patient admitted a few days ago. Would you mind swinging by and chatting him up?' And he'll do that. He's inspirational," Johansen said.
Looking up and smiling Holtry answers the question about how he is doing.
"I feel like a million bucks, short of the fact that I'm paralyzed from the waist down," he laughed. "But everything from the waist up is great!"
Dozens of patches from police departments all over Idaho and around the nation sit on his window sill. Also on display - a Boise State pennant signed by coach Bryan Harsin and a Denver University hockey jersey with his badge number the team gave him last week when he dropped the puck at their game.
The memorabilia, along with a number of other treasures sent to him by well-wishers, are all reminders of the support he has from so many.
"I know that every person in Boise is behind me and I can’t let them down," said the 49-year-old. "I can’t come home mopey and sad and things like that 'cause when you read a letter from a 4th-grader saying, 'Thank you for keeping our community safe, our state safe, our world safe,' I laugh and laugh and they are the cutest things ever, but they do mean a lot to me. I know that people still haven’t forgot about it."
The "it" people haven't forgotten is the fateful day - Nov. 11, 2016 - that changed Holtry's life forever.
A fugitive wanted for a shooting and carjacking was spotted in broad daylight on the Boise Bench.
"Two or three days prior to me getting shot a guy had been released from prison," Holtry explained. "I'm not gonna say his name, I'll never give him the credit of that. It'll never cross my lips."
The Boise SWAT Team responded. Among those called to the scene, Holtry and Officer Shane Williams, the handler for police K-9 Jardo.
After a quick search, the team determined they had the suspect pinned behind a fence that surrounded a yard. Holtry opened the gate and went in. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted the shooter five feet away on the ground.
"I remember getting shot in the lower back and I knew I was paralyzed, I knew it." he said. "I think he was getting ready to kill me cause he was moving up and Jardo came in and bit the guy and latched onto him."
Jardo took a bullet but hung on long enough for four officers to open fire, killing the suspect and saving Holtry's life. Jardo died due to complications from his injuries several days later.
"Jardo's a hero," Holtry said, tears welling in his eyes. “I know he got his memorial as he should. He got a medal of honor as he should. I get real emotional when I think about him."
So, now the process of getting ready for a "new normal" life is well under way. With excruciating tasks he never thought twice about five months ago, like transitioning from a wheelchair into a hand-powered bicycle.
"I'm gonna tell you boys, on the sucks scale, that was pretty high," he said after finishing up the transfer.
Months from now he will begin the pursuit of a prosthetic leg, with the prospects of standing and perhaps walking again a possibility for this father of two teenage daughters.
"There’s certain things I want to stand for, like my daughter's wedding and I can do that,” he said, his voice trailing off as his emotions took over.
All that stands between him and his homecoming is a couple of weeks. He isn’t counting the days, he is counting the hours.
"I'm excited about being with my family," he said. "And all my friends. And going to a buddy's house for a barbeque. It may be hard getting through their front door, but I know how to do that now. But I can't wait. I can’t tell you how bad I want to go home."
And until that day, Holtry has a message of appreciation for all of his supporters.