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December 23, 2023

‘No regrets’: Police Sgt. Kepp in good spirits during recovery from horrific crash

Credit: MoCo360

Montgomery County Police Sgt. Patrick Kepp, 36, said he has “no regrets whatsoever” about getting involved in a traffic stop on I-270 that caused him to lose his legs, Kepp told MoCo360 in a phone interview on Thursday while in his room at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.

He is in recovery, and he remains steadfast in his decision to return to work as a police officer, despite what happened the last time he was doing traffic patrol.

“I don’t think it’s a decision at all,” Kepp said. “It’s my passion.”

He said that losing his legs was just a price to pay to get “someone dangerous off the street.”

At 3:48 a.m. Oct. 18, Kepp was one of the officers attempting to pull over Raphael Mayorga, 19, of Frederick, who was trying to goad officers into a chase, police allege.

Mayorga was driving a green Dodge Charger at a speed of at least 110 mph, police said. Kepp exited his patrol car to deploy stop sticks, which are used to deflate tires. While he was placing the stop sticks, Mayorga drove the Charger into him, according to police.

The crash occurred between Watkins Mill Road and north of Middlebrook Road near exit 13.

“The vehicle [was] observed intentionally moving from the middle lanes to the far-left lanes and coming directly at Sgt. Kepp as he was deploying the stop sticks,” Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones said.

Kepp recalls “time slowing down,” as he processed what happened to him.

He said he reached down to touch his right leg, and he immediately saw the bloody aftermath of the car striking him. Kepp said he had some “choice words” at that point.

Officers performed life-saving measures on Kepp until Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service personnel and medical transport arrived. Kepp was then ferried via helicopter to the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

“Everything worked to perfection,” Kepp said. “There was no hiccup from the radio call to having the [emergency response] call within seconds.”

He praised the people who responded to the scene and helped him get to the hospital. Kepp said the perfect timing of the torniquets being placed, the helicopter transport arriving and receiving treatment was the reason he survived.

Kepp also said that he is grateful to have had “the best trauma surgeon in the world,” noting that he had 10 surgeries. He said that his right leg was amputated in the crash, and his left leg was amputated in surgery in the hospital.

On Dec. 7, Kepp wheeled himself out of the shock trauma center, and as shown in a video posted on social media, doctors, nurses and first responders lined the halls as he left, and he smiled to greet them. He also shared a hug with his surgeon.

He was escorted by a police motorcade to Walter Reed for physical rehabilitation.

Typically, Walter Reed treats only military veterans, but when Rep. David Trone (D-Dist.6) heard about Kepp’s story, he sprang into action.

Trone wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin urging him to a sign a waiver allowing Kepp to use the prosthetic services at the medical center, Trone said via email on Thursday.

“By allowing Sergeant Kepp to receive treatment at Walter Reed, we can ensure that the highly decorated officer gets the best care possible,” Trone wrote. 

Kepp said that his positive outlook during his recovery is because of his friends and family, especially the tight-knit law enforcement community.

“I’ve got four of my fellow officers sitting in my room right now hanging out with me,” he said during the interview.

Kepp said that while “physical and occupational therapy are tough,” it’s worth it because he can get back to doing his favorite things: officiating college football and being an officer.

“Everyone knows that football is my passion, and work will be a very close second,” Kepp said.

He said that he loves officiating Division I college football games and has for a long time because he gets to be front row at amazing games and because he’s “in the action.”

Kepp also said that like law enforcement, the close-knit community he has at the football games makes him value it even more.

As he recovers, he said he looks forward to advocating for passing laws about reckless driving to prevent what happened to him from happening again.

“It’s about adding more teeth to laws that we have and adding new laws for situations like this,” Kepp said.

Mayorga faces 18 charges for striking Kepp, including attempted murder, assault, causing life-threatening injuries and eluding a police officer, digital court records indicate.

His attorney, Isabelle Raquin, did not respond Thursday to a request for comment. Mayorga is being held without bond, and his trial is slated to begin on May 13, according to digital court records.

Kepp said that overall, it has not been easy recounting everything that happened with his amputations and recovery, but it will be completely worth it “if any part of my story can help someone else.”