PHOENIX — A Phoenix Police officer badly injured in a drunk driving crash was able to be put back on patrol for the first time this week after rehabbing for almost exactly a year.
On New Year’s Eve 2020, Phoenix Police Officer Chase McCance got this first call of the night.
He was headed west on Cactus Road when he was hit head-on by a drunk driver.
“Outside of that, I can’t tell you much, I don’t remember anything about the accident,” said McCance from a Phoenix Police podium.
His laundry list of injuries included at least a dislocated hip, a broken pelvis, two broken ribs, and a broken jaw. He also fractured his shoulder and broke some of his teeth which are now behind braces. He also said doctors told him his face was “split in two” from the crash.
When asked about his reaction upon learning all the injuries he had, McCance said, “it was kind of like, ‘holy crap, this is a lot.’”
If the injuries weren’t enough adversity already, the emotional stress on his family was just yards away – standing in the parking lot of the hospital.
Because of pandemic restrictions at the hospital, Officer McCance’s wife, Haili, couldn’t come into the hospital. She was seven months pregnant with their second son sitting in her car in the hospital parking lot, talking with doctors about her husband’s condition.
Haili said doctors asked for her permission for them to surgically explore where McCance was bleeding internally.
“Standing in the hospital parking lot, I gave permission to cut him open from his ribcage to his pelvis,” said Haili.
The emergency injuries were treated and Officer McCance was able to start healing and begin rehab.
For three months, McCance was in a wheelchair. That’s where he was when he welcomed his youngest son into the world.
“He couldn’t hold our child without help, he couldn’t change diapers, he had to be handed our son with a pillow under his arm for assistance,” said Haili.
The abilities taken from Officer McCance he made sure were temporary. The motivation of playing with his boys and getting back into a patrol car helped push him through a strenuous rehab which took almost exactly a calendar year.
On Tuesday, Officer McCance returned to his patrol shift for the first time since the crash.
“It’s like riding a bike,” he told a room of local media.
As for the driver, Dylan Johnson, 23, he was convicted of DUI and aggravated assault. According to the Arizona Department of Corrections, he was sentenced to just under five years behind bars.
In the sentencing hearing – The McCance’s forgave him.
“It was a powerful moment, people make mistakes. Life happens. We forgive you, man,” said Officer McCance.
"I really thought, if I was Dylan's mom. If this was one of my boys that made a horrible, horrible mistake, what would I want him to hear today? We want him to know he's worthy of love and worthy of a good life after this,” said Haili.
Officer McCance was able to see the mangled, twisted metal that is now the patrol car he was in on New Year's Eve, 2020. He said when he saw it, he felt blessed to be alive.