Officer injured in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting talks about recovery, justice for victims

PITTSBURGH — This week, we’re marking five years since the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that took the lives of 11 worshippers.

Four police officers were injured in the shootout at the Tree of Life Synagogue, and now one is sharing his story exclusively with Channel 11′s Rick Earle.

Officer Dan Mead was one of the officers who were first to confront Robert Bowers inside the building. He was shot in the hand, sustaining injuries he’ll have for the rest of his life.

Mead says it was a feeling of relief when a jury in August sentenced Bowers to death for the murders.

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“It’s like a load of bricks off your back. It’s something that just sits back there,” Mead said.

Mead agreed with the jury’s decision.

“I think the jury made a good decision. I mean there was only two decisions. I think they made the right one. And I always say that he’s going to have to suffer for his actions. That’s one person. But you got all of these families and the victims, and their friends and even the people that have been wounded. It’s going to be a lifetime, a lifetime of suffering,” Mead said.

Mead and his partner, Mike Smidga, were the first to respond to the shooting. While approaching the glass door, Mead saw someone through the glass.

“I could see somebody and you could see through the smoke glass and it was from me to him away,” Mead said.

The next thing Mead knew, Bowers was shooting at them.

“Didn’t expect it until I felt this. It went up in the air like a piece of clothes on the laundry line, and then I looked down and it was just, it was dangling there,” Mead said, referring to the hand injuries he sustained in the shootout.

During the trial, prosecutors played an emotional police body camera video of Mead after he was shot in the hand.

“Though my wrist here... that’s where it came out the top, and just shaving on top, just shattered everything,” Mead said.

Mead has had eight surgeries on his hand and while he still can’t close it all the way, he knows it could have been a lot worse.

“It’s short. I appreciate life every day and the things that I do have in it. And it’s and I still think to this day, I mean, that one of two seconds me or my partner wouldn’t have been here,” Mead said.

Five years later, and still off the job on disability, Mead has come to the realization that the prospects of returning are slim.

“I’m a pretty simple person. And I understand, like, what I can do and I can’t do and it’s frustrating, but you get used to it and it’s been many years to get used to it and just move on and all I want to do is be happy and be able to pay my bills, and what have you. That’s it. That’s all I ask for,” Mead said.

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