CHESTERFIELD, Mo. - Dozens of first responders from Missouri and Illinois drove and stood along the route that Arnold police officer Ryan O'Connor traveled as he was transported from St. Louis University Hospital to Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield.
O'Connor was wounded in a shooting in December and has since made small but significant improvements.
A procession of first responders escorted him from St. Louis University hospital to Spirit of St. Louis Airport at around 10:30 a.m. Monday.
Dozens of people lined the streets holding signs of support as police, fire, and ambulance vehicles escorted O'Connor to the airport. People at the airport could be seen embracing as O'Connor was taken from an ambulance and moved inside a small airplane. His wife, Barbara, joined him for the flight. Their four children will be in Colorado as well.
O'Connor will begin rehab at Craig Hospital in Colorado. Ballwin officer Mike Flamion, Hazelwood officer Craig Tudor, and St. Louis officer Gary Glasby all received rehabilitation there. It's widely considered to be one of the best facilities in the country for spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation. Flamion and Tudor were on the tarmac with a crowd to see O'Connor off.
The O'Connor family released the following statement via the Arnold Police Department:
"Today we celebrate a small victory. Officer Ryan O’Connor was airlifted to Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado where he is due to arrive safely this afternoon. Craig Hospital is one of the best in the nation and is where area Officers Flamion, Tudor, and Glasby received incredible rehabilitative care. Ryan’s recovery will be a long journey, but with the skills of the phenomenal staff at Craig, the love of his family, and the support from all of you, we know that we will have many more victories to celebrate together."
O'Connor was shot in the head by a burglary suspect inside the officer's police SUV on Dec. 5. The suspect, 29-year-old Chad Klahs, then fatally shot himself.
O'Connor underwent a five-hour surgery initially and has endured additional surgeries since then as well as a medically induced coma.
Arnold police posted an update from O'Connor's family on the department's Facebook page last Thursday. The posting said O'Connor was breathing on his own and his ventilator had been removed. It said the family was surprised when he opened his eyes.