CLEVELAND (WJW) – Cleveland Police Swat Officer Jonathan Rodriguez entered the FOP Lodge Wednesday with his wife, Officer Zuleika Rodriguez, and their two young children by his side to thunderous applause.
Although he wore a mask, it was obvious by his eyes he was smiling. It was the first time in over a year the 31-year-old has been able to visit with many of his coworkers.
On June 5, 2020, Rodriguez was with the SWAT team headed to a call around 3:30 a.m. when the van they were traveling in was hit by a car on East 18th Street near St. Clair Avenue.
Several of the officers were trapped and Rodriguez suffered a spinal cord injury which has left him paralyzed. He spent two months in the hospital ICU and three months in rehabilitation. He continues to do therapy two to three times a week.
“I wanted this to be a special moment for him,” said Officer Freddy Diaz, who helped organize a retirement party for Rodriguez. “It has been a difficult journey.”
Rodriguez, who started his career seven years ago, retired a few days ago.
“It’s not fair this happened to him,” said Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association. “He is a wonderful person. A great officer.”
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams presented Rodriguez with a retirement badge.
“Jonathan is a great guy, he has a great family and it is a tragedy that this happened to him, but we are going to support him and support his family from here on out,” Williams said.
Rodriguez tells us he is grateful for the support and had this message for those that have helped him.
“Thank you,” Rodriguez said.
Several of his co-workers said they are the ones that are thankful.
“Jonathan, you are special soul,” Diaz said. “Your smile lights up a room.”
Dozens of officers drove past the FOP Lodge Wednesday showing their support and respect for the man that risked his life to help others.
“We want to let him know he is still a part of us,” Diaz said. “He is still a Cleveland police officer in our hearts.”
A fundraiser is also being held to help Rodriguez and his family with expenses. Donations can be made online here or checks can be sent to: Cleveland Police Foundation, 2301 Payne #201, Cleveland, Ohio 44114. When making the donation, please specify “to: Jonathan Rodriguez Fund.”