Police officer rebounds from injury to pass physical condition test

Culver City Police Officer Tri Lai, injured in a motorcycle accident, clears wall to return to active duty

When the time came, Culver City police Officer Tri Lai had no trouble hitting the wall. But now he needs a new pair of gym shorts.

Lai, 40, a 15-year veteran, has been fighting his way back to resume active duty on the police force since a 2013 motorcycle accident, rather than retiring.

But the six-foot wall that he had to vault over, part of the physical condition test, stood in the way. After intense training sessions the last few months courtesy of Steve Zim from neighborhood gym A Tighter U, he'd hoisted himself over the wall in a couple of practice runs.

Early Tuesday, with the sun shining in Culver City's Bill Botts Field, Lai was ready to try again, with the support of his wife, Robin, Zim, trainer Bryan Arceo from the gym and a group of fellow officers to cheer him on.

Among them was Assistant Chief Chris Gutierrez, who was the first to get to the hospital the day Lai was injured.

"He's come a long way," Gutierrez said. "The whole department's rooting for him."

Under the eye of Lt. Jason Sims, who oversees personnel training, and Heidi Salas, from Culver City Human Resources, Lai started his dash toward the wall. With enthusiastic cheers all around, he easily hoisted himself up and over.

"He made it look easy!" came a stray voice from the crowd.

Lai took off on the rest of the course, including a body drag with 150 pounds of dead weight, and an obstacle course.

Then came the chain-link fence to climb. Lai started strong but slipped down a couple feet because his shoes were wet from the grass. Then, as he rounded the top, his fleece shorts got caught in the fence and precious moments ticked by. Finally untangled, he dropped down and ran to the finish, even though the front of his shorts was ripped open.

"This is amazing," said Salas. "The first time, he couldn't even make it over the wall."

There was a little moment of conferring because Lai had gone over the four-minute allotted time by 47 seconds, but Sims and Salas called him over and told him he'd passed the test.

"You got it," his wife beamed.

And she was right. After passing the marksmanship test at the shooting range later that day, he got the call from the chief on Thursday. Come Monday, he returns to work nearly two years after the accident.

"I'm really thankful for all the support that got me through it," Lai said. "All the hard work paid off."


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