STANTON, Mich. (WOOD) — Two years to the day after he was nearly killed in an ambush by a man wielding a crossbow, Deputy Michael Kotenko returned to duty.
Kotenko was shot Oct. 9, 2015 while working alongside Michigan State Police to arrest a man on an outstanding warrant.
Shortly after officers arrived at the home in rural Montcalm County, the suspect fired his crossbow and the bolt hit Kotenko in the side of his chest. Other responding officers ultimately shot and killed the suspect.
“It’s our worst nightmare,” Kotenko said of being shot in the line of duty. “I had just enough time to realize what was happening as it happened.”
Kotenko told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday that he has undergone two years of physical and mental therapy as part of his recovery and feels ready to return work.
“Words can’t express how happy I am to be back to work,” he said.
Montcalm County Sheriff Michael Williams said Kotenko will start out on light duty before returning as a full road patrol deputy.
“He sacrificed a lot for this county and doing his job,” Williams said.
After he was shot, Kotenko said his thoughts quickly turned to his daughter, who was 10 years old at the time.
“I was going to fight with everything I had to stay here so that I could watch her graduate, watch her grow up, and someday, hopefully, walk her down the aisle,” Kotenko said. “She’s my world.”
Kotenko said what happened to him is a testament to the dangers of police work.
“It’s a dangerous job, whether you’re working in a rural county like this or whether you’re working in downtown Grand Rapids,” Kotenko said. “Every day we walk out and say goodbye to our family, it might be the last.”
Little has changed about how he’ll go about his job, Kotenko said. He and the sheriff agree that nothing could have been done to prepare the 16-year veteran officer for an ambush.
What has changed, Kotenko said, is his outlook on life after an experience that very well could have been his last.
“Every day I get up and I hold my cup of coffee in the morning,” Kotenko said. “I go outside and I feel the breeze on my face and I think, I might not have been able to do this.”