Jason Schechterle dreamed of being a homicide detective ever since he was a teenager. And even a fiery crash early in his career, which left him disfigured, couldn’t stop that dream.
He has beaten death, survived surgery after surgery and returned to work with the same passion he had before the March 26, 2001, crash that changed his life.
With his wife, Suzie, by his side, Schechterle announced a medical retirement on Wednesday from the Phoenix Police Department after about seven years of service.
“I want to take better care of myself, my eyes and spend time with my kids,” Schechterle said. “I have a little bit of a heavy heart.”
Schechterle also said one of the “biggest deciding factors” for the retirement was the fact that he was working in a “light capacity” without a gun, because his injuries prohibited him from carrying the weapon.
“Through my recovery process, I have gotten everything back, but to me you want to do this job the way it’s meant to be,” Schechterle said. “But without a gun on your hip, you can’t do that.”
Still, the former homicide detective isn’t leaving for good.
He has joined the reserve officers as a volunteer police officer and will spend most of his volunteer time with the homicide unit helping out.
Schechterle has become a beloved public figure in the Valley, appearing at numerous speaking engagements involving schoolchildren and burn victims. He has carried the Olympic torch, met President Bush and worked as a campaign chairman. When the tabloid World Weekly News published a slur about the disfigured officer, he held his head high and compelled the publication to donate money to the state Foundation for Burns and Trauma.
Schechterle was injured on March 26, 2001, when driver Rogelio Gutierrez suffered an epileptic seizure and slammed his taxi into the rear of the officer’s car, which then exploded. He spent minutes inside the burning vehicle before firefighters pulled him out. Then he spent 2 1 /2 months in a drug-induced coma.
“Just because something happened and changed my life a little bit, I still go on,” Schechterle said.
And his name will go on too.
The 100 Club of Arizona has started a scholarship fund in the former officer’s name to raise money for families of police officers or firefighters who are injured in the line of duty. Traditionally, the 100 Club donated most of the money to only the families of those who have died.
When Schechterle looks back on his life and career with Phoenix police, he says he has “thousands of memories.”
Some that stick out in his mind are his time working on the streets as an officer, going through the academy, making friends and investigating murder cases.
“To have to say goodbye is a little bit difficult,” Suzie Schechterle said. “But he’ll be back.”
Schechterle’s career Aug. 9, 1999: Jason Schechterle is hired.
Jan. 10, 2000: He is sworn in.
March 26, 2001: His patrol car is struck by a taxi and bursts into flames, leaving him severely scarred.
Nov. 12, 2002: He returns to work.
March 2004: He becomes a homicide detective.
Aug. 18, 2006: He takes a medical retirement.
What: Schechterle’s retirement dinner, which will be a charity event for a new scholarship fund in his name.
Where: Pointe South Mountain Resort Ballroom, 7777 S. Pointe Parkway
When: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 27
Cost: $50 per person
To attend: Make checks payable to 100 Club of Arizona and mail to 100 Club of Arizona Scholarship/Retirement Dinner, 5033 N. 19th Ave., Suite 123, Phoenix, AZ 85015
Information: (602) 418-5702 or