A few months after he was shot in the head during a traffic stop, a Tulsa police officer returned to work depicting his commitment to his career.
Hailed as “Tulsa’s Hope” by Mayor G.T. Bynum, Aurash Zarkeshan, 27, flew home from Denver, Colorado, on October 15, and returned to light duty in November.
Zarkeshan was with his partner, Sgt. Craig Johnson, on June 29, when an errant driver stopped. They were shot several times, but Johnson, a 15-year police veteran, died on June 30. As a “miracle,” Zarkeshan explains his own survival.
“I’m so glad to be home,” he told Tulsa World as he returned home. “I’m sick and tired of the hospital and hope to never be in one again, unless it’s for good reason.” He then thanked “all of Tulsa” for their support of him, his family, and the family of fallen Sgt. Johnson, whom he refers to as his friend and mentor.
During his first few weeks at the hospital, Zarkeshan became accustomed to using one hand squeeze for “yes” and two for “no to communicate. “I had a breathing tube in so I couldn’t talk about it. One of my classmates at the academy who visited me came up with that idea,” he said.
But while his memory of that time remains clouded, Zarkeshan has never lost sight of his goal. When asked if he still wanted to be a police officer, his response was immediate: a firm hand squeeze. “I knew that I was coming back,” he said.
Zarkeshan, who joined the Tulsa Police Department in May 2019 and was assigned as a patrol officer to the graveyard shift, said: “I wanted to be in a career that not everyone gets to do and where I help people every day in a social role.”
The police from Tulsa followed the journey of their officer through rehab, rejoicing when Zarkeshan shared the news in August that he could stand and walk comfortably. He regaled the view of his therapists that he was progressing “very fast,” and that he was scoring well on tests of cognitive ability.
“I feel very lucky to have such amazing support from the community,” he said. The recovery of Zarkeshan became a symbol of hope for the community that had prayed in his absence and sent well-wishes.
In November, Tulsa Police Department welcomed their long-missed officer back to work for light duty. “We were excited to see him,” they posted on Facebook.
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum declared Zarkeshan’s official homecoming date, Oct. 15, as “Officer Aurash Zarkeshan Day.” The officer was also named among Tulsa World Magazine’s “Tulsans of the Year” for his immense recovery and resolve to return to work.
“He could have easily given up after being shot in the head by a suspect,” Salute the Blue, an organization that honors fallen heroes and builds community appreciation and respect for first responders, shared in a Dec. 8 post on Instagram. “Instead, he fought hard to make sure he could make it back to Tulsa PD to serve his community and protect the innocent! Welcome back Officer Zarkeshan!”
“I’m proud to be here in the field that I’m in and serving this community,” Zarkeshan concluded.
The dedicated officer is expected to make a full recovery in due course.