By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) – A Denver police officer critically injured when he was struck by a motorist last year during a demonstration over the shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Missouri was released from a hospital on Wednesday.
John Adsit, 43, suffered a severed artery, numerous broken bones, and had his spleen removed after the December incident.
Adsit and three other bicycle officers were hit by a sport utility vehicle as they conducted traffic and crowd control at the march by hundreds of Denver high school students.Adsit was the only officer seriously injured.
The students were protesting the decision by a grand jury not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.
Flanked by his family, fellow officers and other well-wishers, Adsit made a brief statement as he left the hospital, saying he was “humbled” by the outpouring of support during his recovery.
“I’m so excited to be sleeping in my own bed,” said Adsit, a nine-year veteran of the force.
Police initially said it appeared the driver, Christopher Booker, was undergoing a medical issue when he lost control of the vehicle and that the crash was an accident, but the incident is still under investigation, a police spokeswoman said.
Adsit’s recovery is good news for the Denver Police Department, which has been embroiled in controversy since the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old girl by two officers last month.
During a weekend protest outside police headquarters over what demonstrators said was widespread use of excessive force, red paint was poured on a memorial to officers who died in the line of duty.
Under orders from Police Chief Robert White, officers did not intervene until afterward, when two men were arrested for defacing the memorial.
That prompted the state’s two largest police unions to call for White to resign or be fired.
“The fact that Denver police officers working that demonstration had to watch the outrageous vandalism to this revered memorial without being able to intervene is shameful, inexcusable, and unacceptable,” the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police said in a letter sent to Mayor Michael Hancock.
Hancock responded that while the vandalism was “repulsive,” he defended White’s actions.
“The decision not to engage with the protesters and escalate the conflict was the right one, and the perpetrators of this despicable act will be punished,” Hancock said in a statement.
(Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Walsh)