By John Maxwell
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down and speaking with Tyler and Chelsea Moldovan to discuss what this past year’s journey has been. The only thing I can say is that Tyler is a fighter and never gave up that fight, and he has overcome so much in one year.
Tyler and Chelsea’s story begins with their faith and love for God. They fell in love after meeting in the church. Tyler was working for his father’s business, doing general maintenance at care facilities; Chelsea was working at a local hospital as an emergency room tech, studying to become an ER physician’s assistant. Tyler decided to enter the field of law enforcement, being supported by his family and Chelsea. His family has always been incredibly supportive of law enforcement and their role in the community, which made it an easy decision for Tyler to begin his career. He did a ride-along with Scottsdale P.D. and it was very uneventful. So he knew he was going to apply for Phoenix P.D.
Tyler was hired and started the academy. He did not find the physical portion challenging. He was physically fit and in shape, so that part was easy, but the academic portion was another story. It was more of a challenge, but he made it through, thinking the entire process would’ve been harder from what others had said. Tyler and Chelsea were engaged during the academy. He graduated from the academy in March 2021, and they were married on May 15.
Tyler’s pick for patrol was an assignment in the Desert Horizon Precinct, where he completed his field training. He then went on to the 61K squad. He became a very dedicated and passionate officer. He enjoyed policing. Some of the crimes Tyler liked to investigate were drug activity and persons under the influence. The more challenging calls, in Tyler’s opinion, were domestic violence and civil disputes.
December 14, 2021, was the day that changed Tyler and Chelsea’s lives forever. Due to ongoing criminal litigation regarding this case, details about the incident cannot be shared. Monday, December 13, began like any other day. Tyler woke up at midday, his father-in-law came over and helped him trim palm trees, and then he enjoyed dinner with Chelsea. Chelsea and Tyler both worked overnights; she began her shift at 6 p.m. and he began his at 8 p.m. They texted each other throughout the night, but they were both terribly busy. The last text they sent to each other was “I love you.”
Chelsea remembers that she was doing rounds in the ER, close to 3 a.m., when she started to receive calls from an unknown number. She ignored it at first, thinking it was spam, but they kept calling. She finally answered, and it was a police lieutenant asking Chelsea if she was at home or working. He told her that Tyler was in critical condition and had been transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital, and that a police car was being sent over to her to bring her to the hospital. She told the charge nurse that she needed to leave because Tyler was severely injured. She did not yet know how bad he was. She was picked up in the ambulance bay. On route, the I-17 freeway was closed, so they had to take surface streets all the way downtown. With so many stoplights, Chelsea said this was the longest ride of her life. The only people she called were her parents, and she did not know what to think.
Chelsea arrived at St. Joe’s and was immediately escorted into the family waiting area. She was anxiously waiting to see Tyler or to speak with a doctor and find out the extent of his injuries. It was not until two hours later, when he was being moved from the ER to ICU, that she had a chance to see him for the first time. She said she felt overwhelmed with emotion. She was glad to learn he was wearing his bulletproof vest. Tyler was shot eight times, including in the knee, left leg, right thumb, left hand and shoulder, but the most severe injury was the gunshot wound to his head. Tyler was in an upright seated position while being wheeled through the hallways, leaving Chelsea not knowing what to think. After seeing him, she was finally able to meet with the doctor. He said the prognosis was not good. Tyler was in extremely critical condition, and he asked if Tyler was an organ donor. Due to the bullet being lodged in his brain, they could not perform an MRI scan. They also needed to conduct an evaluation period and perform brain function testing. She asked to be alone with her husband for five minutes. All she could do was hold his hand and pray that he would make it through this.
The initial information that we received from the Department was that Tyler’s injuries were not survivable and we needed to prepare. PLEA immediately held a fundraising barbecue at our building. Many businesses and companies were more than willing to donate food and products on a truly short notice. US Foods donated the use of a reefer trailer to hold all the cold items. The community support was incredible. Chelsea never left Tyler’s side, so she was not able to attend, but a sizable portion of Tyler’s family did. The family stayed throughout the night and sang Christmas songs and choir hymns. This was a very moving moment for all of us.
Chelsea spent four weeks at Tyler’s bedside. She said that you find a point where you cannot cry anymore and all she could do was pray. Tyler started to move his fingers and open his eyes; this was very unexpected and an unbelievable feeling for her. She said that she never lost hope and that he was not going to leave her. During the time of the injury, Tyler suffered a stroke, leaving his right side severely affected in motor function. He would later regain function on the right side of his body.
Tyler spent almost seven weeks in the ICU, until he moved to Craig Hospital in Colorado on January 24, 2022. He slowly started to respond to stimuli and testing from the doctors. His recovery and therapy processes had fully begun.
Fast-forward to March; Tyler said that this was when he came to understand that his injuries were real. He faced various emotions, denial being the biggest one to overcome. He said that he used determination after that to aid in his recovery.
Tyler would stay at Craig Hospital for almost four and a half months. He passed several milestones along the way. April 22 was the first time he was able to leave the hospital for the day. Tyler wanted to go to Cabela’s and bought two things, a T-shirt and 100 rounds of .556 ammunition. In May, he stood on his own. In June he was removed from the ventilator, and on June 2 he returned home to a large police showing and community support lining the street near the airport. July 4 was his first holiday at home. On August 1, his trach tube was removed. On October 9, Chelsea and Tyler enjoyed a day on the boat at Lake Pleasant.
Tyler, you are truly a miracle story and physical proof of a warrior. You are an inspiration to all of us. Chelsea, your strength and prayers were heard. You made many sacrifices, and you are the rock to Tyler. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
Chelsea Moldovan: “You can find peace, comfort, love and hope, even if it’s far away.”
Tyler Moldovan: “Don’t stop fighting.”