PHOENIX — Officer Tyler Moldovan, who survived getting shot eight times last December, returned home to the Valley after he was recently discharged from a rehabilitation facility.
Family, friends and supporters showed up Thursday morning outside Deer Valley Airport to greet Moldovan as he was transported by ambulance back home.
"I don’t think we thought we were going to see this day so it’s a pleasure and an honor to be out here," Anne Ender, president and founder of Operation Blue Ribbon said.
The officer has undergone months of recovery after sustaining severe injuries during a shooting on Dec. 14, 2021.
Moldovan wasn't expected to survive his injuries. After being shot eight times, Moldovan was put onto life support.
"It didn’t look good for Tyler, honestly he shouldn't have been here," David Margau said.
Margau said Moldovan is a good friend, having gone to the same church together. Margau is among thousands who have been following Moldovan's recovery.
"We always had hope, but we knew the extent of his injuries, so it was hard," Margau said.
John Barry, whose daughter is a Phoenix police officer, said he's been praying too.
"We’ve been praying for this day, that he would have a full recovery, but to get out of the hospital and be going home is just unbelievable," Barry said. "It was not really anticipated, it was hoped for and it is such a great milestone."
That's why Thursday's homecoming was such a big deal.
"It's great relief knowing he's still here today," Adrian Tudur said. Tudur said he is a cousin of Moldovan's wife Chelsea Moldovan.
Seventh Avenue was lined with dozens of Phoenix police cruisers with lights on, a few Phoenix fire trucks, and dozens of others holding signs to welcome home Moldovan.
"I want him to look down the street and see his family in Christ here, his brothers in blue there, all of us together supporting him, welcoming him home," Margau said.
Many said Moldovan's recovery to this point can only be described as a miracle.
"This is a miracle from God. There’s no other explanation, there’s no denying it," Margau said. "He shouldn’t have been here, he got shot eight times, this is a miracle."
Still, they said they'll be continuing to hope and pray for his full recovery.
"Thank you, God. Thank you for saving the life of a young man that wants to protect us," Ender said.
Essa Williams allegedly shot Moldovan several times as officers were searching for a suspicious person at an apartment complex near 19th Avenue and Camelback Road. Williams was arrested and is facing several felony charges.
Moldovan's family thanked the staff at his rehab facility for their help in treating the officer.
"May the Lord bless each person who has cared for us so wonderfully and who worked hard to give us the opportunities we have today," Moldovan's family wrote on Instagram this week.
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How big is Maricopa County?
Maricopa County is the United States’ 4th largest county in terms of population with 4,485,414 people, according to the 2020 Census.
The county contains around 63% of Arizona’s population and is 9,224 square miles. That makes the county larger than seven U.S. states (Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, Massachusetts and New Hampshire).
One of the largest park systems in the nation is also located in Maricopa County. The county has an estimated 120,000 acres of open space parks that includes hundreds of miles of trails, nature centers and campgrounds.
The county’s seat is located in Phoenix, which is also the state capital and the census-designated 5th most populous city in the United States.
The county was named after the Maricopa, or Piipaash, Native American Tribe.