DENVER, CO - The family of the Arnold Police Officer injured in the line of duty is taking his recovery one day at a time, more than 800 miles from home.
But inside Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado, the officer’s family has found a special friend.
The Denver Police Department’s Sgt. Bobby Waidler has forged a close relationship with O’Connor’s wife Barbara, and her children.
Waidler is in charge of the department’s Bureau for Resiliency, Peer Support, and Wellness. As part of his duties, he reaches out to the families of officers being treated at Craig Hospital.
He said he understands the hardships that come with being transplanted to a different city, and under difficult circumstances.
“We know that they are overwhelmed. We know that they’re feeling a lot of strain, and stress and pressure because of the injury and because of the incident,” Waidler said.
Ryan O’Connor, 44, was transferred to Craig Hospital to receive top medical treatment for a brain injury, after he was shot by a burglary suspect December 5.
He continues to make progress, he recently began speaking and has been able to move parts of his body.
Inside O’Connor’s hospital room are walls covered with patches, flags, and signs including a sign from the Denver Police Department.
“We had two signs that we had made up. One was a street sign, a Denver street sign. We had it altered and fabricated. It’s on the bottom – ‘DPD Backs You.’ So, it shows our support for Ryan and his family. And we had it made, ‘O’Connor Strong.’ We have a little shamrock in there, of course, to represent his Irish heritage,” Waidler said.
Waidler has not only been visiting with the family at the hospital, he has also taken them off campus.
He has taken the O’Connors’ eldest son, Aidan, 17, under his wing, giving him tours of the Denver Police Department.
“Aidan accompanied me. Came to work. And he helped me tremendously, gave him some projects, some tasks. He wants to be a police officer. And it’s just a great introduction so he can see it from a different view,” Waidler said.
Barbara O’Connor said she is grateful for the special relationship formed with Sgt. Waidler.
“We’ve had amazing support from the Denver Police Department. Sgt. Waidler has been amazing. Just constantly checking in on us,” she said.