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January 23, 2013

Fortville officer wounded last year returns to duty

FORTVILLE, Ind. — A central Indiana police officer wounded by a gunman during a traffic stop said he never doubted he would resume patrolling the streets of a small Hancock County town.

Fortville officer Matt Fox, 30, returned to duty Tuesday with his police dog, Lannie, after three surgeries, months of rehabilitation and counseling.

On July 27, Fox pulled over a car for a missing tail light when the driver ambushed him and shot him as he sat in his patrol car. A bullet shattered Fox’s wrist and ricocheted, hitting him in the forehead. Another bullet hit him in the chest, but was absorbed by his bulletproof vest.

The gunman, 27-year-old James Lockhart III of Indianapolis, died in a shootout with other officers.

Fox said he has watched the police car video of the shooting many times and thinks about it often.

“There’s never a day that doesn’t go by or an hour that doesn’t go by that you have flashbacks,” he told WTHR-TV.

Fox said he was aware that he could be shot in the line of duty, but was more than ready to return to work after three months on desk duty.

“I had said from day one, ‘I want to be back in less than six months,’” he said.

Fortville Town Marshal Mark Lyons said Fox had told him he would be back on duty by the start of 2013. However, Fox had surgery late last year to reconstruct the pinky finger and needed more time to recuperate, he said.

Lyons said he spoke to Fox, who joined the force in 2007, about whether he had any apprehension about returning to his patrol duties, but Fox was ready to go.

“He said there’s absolutely no problem,” he said. “He’s confident.”

Martin Peters, co-owner of M&J Firearms in Fortville’s main thoroughfare, said Fox’s story is a tragedy with a positive outcome. Peters keeps a newspaper article with Fox’s photo pinned to a wall for customers to see.

“The community needs more heroes,” Peters said. “I can’t think of a better example.”

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