He didn't have to get involved.
When employees at an Oklahoma City bar asked Chad Peery, an off-duty police officer, to assist in showing some obnoxious patrons to the door, he could have refused and continued enjoying a Thunder game on TV with his father. But on the night of Feb. 15, 2011, Peery chose to help because that was his nature.
It proved to be a fateful gesture. On reaching the exit, two of the men attacked Peery while a third kept others back. Peery was severely beaten and suffered a broken neck that left him para-lyzed below the shoulders.
He somehow kept a positive outlook regarding the resulting challenges, which served as an inspiration to fellow officers and to the community. The toughness and dedication he had displayed as an athlete at Mount St. Mary High School was evident in his rehabilitation. Doctors initially told him he might someday see some movement in his arms “and that would be it.” But just six months after the attack, Peery was able to stand and wiggle his toes in the therapy pool; he could feed and dress himself and propel his manual wheelchair, which his doctor said was “absolutely beyond what I expected.”
His goal was to walk again, unaided. And he remained on the job, working in the police department's computer crimes division. “Active and vibrant,” police Capt. Dexter Nelson called him.
Nelson spoke Monday in announcing stunning news: Peery had died as the result of injuries suffered a day earlier in a one-vehicle rollover accident on Interstate 40. Peery's four children and the van's driver were injured.
Peery was 36. The three losers who crippled him will walk out of prison one day, but Peery's attitude toward them was itself an inspiration: “If I let myself become bitter and focus on the guys that did this to me,” he said in August 2011, “I only hurt myself.”
RIP, Officer Peery.