By Brian Knox | Wise County Messenger
MEETING THE GOVERNOR – Gov. Greg Abbott presented Decatur Police Officer Matthew Roberts with the Star of Texas award last week in Austin. The award is presented to officers killed or seriously injured in the line of duty. Also pictured is First Lady of Texas Cecilia Abbott (left) and Roberts’ wife, Mandy. Submitted photo.
When Decatur Police Officer Matthew Roberts’ Chevrolet Tahoe finally came to rest upside down against a telephone pole after flipping end over end, he knew one thing for sure:
“I realized I was still alive,” he said.
Moments earlier, his vehicle had been parked on the southbound shoulder of U.S. 81/287 in Decatur when it had been struck from behind by an 18-wheeler.
Eight months after that harrowing January night, Roberts received a Star of Texas award from Gov. Greg Abbott last week for his injuries sustained in service to the community.
Among the family, friends and Decatur Police Department representatives joining him in Austin were three officers who were among the first to arrive on the scene of the wreck – Decatur Police Sgt. Robert Cain, Decatur Officer Mike Horsley and Boyd Police Sgt. Rex Richie.
“That was definitely the first three faces I remember seeing,” Roberts said. “In as much pain as I was in, seeing those familiar faces, it was pretty comforting.”
WRECK SCENE – Decatur Police Officer Matthew Roberts’ Chevrolet Tahoe was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer Jan. 26. Roberts was flown to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. The driver of the truck, Christopher Toussaint, 40, of Dallas, was arrested for driving while intoxicated. Messenger photo by Joe Duty.
But the first person to reach Roberts and pull him away from the wreckage remains a mystery. Roberts had managed to get out of his seatbelt while suspended upside down and break his window, but he was unable to stand up.
“I’d like to know [who it was],” Roberts said. “I’d like to shake his hand. Honestly, at the point that I hit the ground, physically I couldn’t move, and if he hadn’t helped me get away, I would have been laying right there. I had just filled up with gas about 30 minutes before that, so there was a full tank of gas leaking out all around me.”
Roberts was flown to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth and was treated for five broken ribs and a collapsed lung.
Months later, he still deals daily with effects of the nerve damage. The fingers in his left hand twitch from time to time, which doctors have told him is related to a neck injury.
He is scheduled to meet with a neurosurgeon next week to see if surgery is an option.
He also has pain in his stomach area.
“The best way I can describe it is it feels kind of numb on the surface, like it’s asleep,” he said. “With the heat and this vest, it feels like I’ve got ants biting me.”
Two-and-a-half months after the wreck, Roberts returned to work at the Decatur Police Department, where he has worked for the last year-and-a-half. He was restricted to light duty for the first month before returning to full duty.
Decatur Police Lt. Gerald Wright said the department nominated Roberts for the Star of Texas Award early this summer to recognize his service. The award is given to officers who are killed or injured in the line of duty.
“We knew that Matt deserved it,” Wright said. “It’s nice to get an award, but that’s kind of the award you don’t want to get.”
On Sept. 11, Roberts stood on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives and met Abbott for the first time. As he did with every recipient that day, the governor took the time to talk to Roberts, to thank him for his service, to ask about his healing process, to tell him he had the support of the entire state, not just his department.
Abbott even had encouraging words for Roberts’ wife, who was by his side during the ceremony.
“He told her, ‘I know that a police officer’s job is hard, but it’s even harder being a police officer’s wife,’ so he gave her those little words of encouragement there,” Roberts said.
While Roberts might have been the center of attention for a few moments – a position he says he doesn’t feel comfortable in – he felt like he shared the honor with the officers who came to his aid.
“I felt like I was doing it for the department,” he said. “The guys who got to me first on the accident scene were able to make it [to the ceremony], so to me, it was kind of doing it for those guys. When I came back to duty, I realized this accident affected really more than just me and my family.”
View original article by the Wise County Messenger.