CHICAGO (CBS) — Park Forest Police Officer Timothy Jones, shot in the line of duty 14 months ago, wheeled out of a west suburban rehab facility on Friday, dressed in full uniform, to a standing ovation from colleagues, friends, and family.
Jones was rolled out of Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Wheaton, where his squad car was waiting for him outside, emblazoned with the message “TimStrong,” which has been the Park Forest Police Department’s rallying cry since he was shot in the head and face in March 2016.
Park Forest Police Chief Pete Green stood next to the squad car as Jones left the hospital.
“To see him come out in his uniform, it’s beautiful, and it’s great,” he said.
Stretched in a line between the squad and a medical transport van were about two dozen Park Forest police officers in uniform, applauding Jones. Jones’ medical team cheered him too. Some waved small American flags. Some wore black #TimStrong t-shirts.
Jones’ father is Country Club Hills Police Chief William Jones, who said his son was so excited to be putting on his uniform again.
“The only thing he could say was, “Yeah, boy. Yeah, boy, I’m back,” he said. “My son was proud to be there, and he’s still proud to be a Park Forest police [officer], and he said if he had to do it over again, he said, ‘Dad, in a heartbeat.’”
Chief Jones said his son’s smile spoke for him.
“It said ‘Hey guys, I’m on my way back,’” he said. “He didn’t decline to speak today. His mom declined for him. Tim was ready to talk. He wanted to speak, but we told him ‘Let’s get you home.’”
Dr. Steven Bou, a specialist in brain injury medicine at Marianjoy, said Jones has “beaten a lot of odds to get to this point.”
Bou said Jones’ treatment at Marianjoy was “one small piece of a bigger journey,” though it’s difficult to say what kind of long-term impairment he might face due to his injuries.
Green said Jones has never given up, even from the beginning, when doctors said he likely wouldn’t survive a day or two.
“When we were told that he wasn’t going to make 24 hours when the incident happened, I remember telling his dad, ‘Hey, it’s 25 hours later, and we’re still going.’ Then they told us 48 hours. At 49 hours I told his dad, ‘Hey, we’re still in the fight. Tim’s not giving up. This is Tim’s call,’ and he’s still fighting,” he said.
Officer Jones still has a long road ahead in his recovery, but his father and fellow Park Forest officers said they’ll be with him every step.
“We see officers killed every day across the country, and here we got a one-in-a-million,” Green said.
The burglary suspect who shot Officer Jones was killed in a shootout with officers as they tried to arrest him as they were investigating a break-in and a stolen vehicle at an abandoned home in Park Forest.
Officer Jones had been on the force about a year before he was shot.