AURORA – Aurora police officer Marco Gomez was at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Aurora finalizing plans for an upcoming active shooter training course when the call went out about a shooting at the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora.
Gomez and fellow officer Jason Russell rushed to the scene with no hesitation.
"There wasn't even a thought, should we go or not go," Gomez said as he recounted that day.
A year has passed since gunman Gary Martin, 45, of Aurora, shot and killed five of his co-workers at Henry Pratt on Feb. 15, 2019.
Martin, who was being told he was being fired prior to the shooting, later died in a shootout with police. Gomez was among several Aurora police officers who were wounded in the shooting. He was shot in the right thigh.
"The bullet traveled through the inside of my body all the way through my left leg," Gomez related.
The 40-year-old Gomez, who has been with the Aurora Police Department since 2005, is still on restricted duty but hopes to return to his job as a community police officer this month after rigorous physical therapy sessions to get his body back where it needs to be.
"The initial therapy was to try to get the strength back in the right leg," he said. "What I didn't know is that I had torn my meniscus as well. In September, they did surgery to repair the meniscus. So that put me back about four to six months."
He has pushed himself to return to his previous duties.
"To be able to say that I could come back within a year kind of motivated me to work really hard during physical therapy," Gomez said. "I pushed myself to make sure that I could come back."
As a community police officer, Gomez enjoys the connections he makes with the rest of the community. As he has learned over the years, being a police officer is about more than just catching the bad guy.
"I saw how much impact community policing had on the department and on the community," Gomez said. "You start making these connections with community groups and schools and businesses and landlords and you realize that our job can be a lot easier when everybody's involved. If we all work together, it makes a difference."
He had worried that he might not be able to return to being a community police officer.
"I thought about it," Gomez said. "I thought about what if I can't come back to work? What if physically I'm done? You start thinking about those things. The more I sat at home and the more I watched 'Live PD,' the more I wanted to come back to work."
Since the shooting, Gomez said the bond with his fellow police officers has gotten even closer.
"Something like this creates a big bond between all the officers," he said.
Gomez has seen that type of bond before. He is a former Marine and served two tours in Iraq.
He also has seen the community rally around the police department since the shooting. The city adopted the phrase "Aurora Strong" in the days after the shooting.
"When you have something this tragic happen in your community, it's either going to make or break the community," Gomez said. "And what it did, it just kind of showed that we were really strong and it showed that Aurora could stick together."
As the community reflects on the one-year anniversary of the shooting, Gomez said he would like everyone to remember the five victims.
"We've got to remember them," he said. "I would trade my life for them to be here. They didn't ask for that. As police officers in this community, we have to honor them by doing right, to go out there and protect the people that we can protect and to serve our community the best that we can."