Indianapolis IN Dec 17 2016 When word got to Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer Santos Cortez that a woman was in desperate need of a wheelchair, he had the answer in his garage.
Cortez, who was paralyzed while on duty four years ago in a crash with a drunken driver, was happy to donate an almost-new wheelchair to Ashley Brown, a 27-year-old single mom and double amputee.
"People have always stepped up and helped me out," Cortez said. "It's time for me to be a blessing and help somebody else out."
For three years, Brown has worked at the Wal-Mart at 4545 Lafayette Road on the northwest side. She was born with health problems that caused doctors to amputate her legs when she was three years old.
Her old wheelchair was a mess. Inner tubes poked through the worn out tires. She wrapped the wheels in duct tape to keep them from falling apart.
A new wheelchair costs hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Brown didn't have the money.
"I knew I had to come to work. I knew I had to keep going," Brown said. "I kept coming to work every day. Even with the tape on it."
Brown greets Wal-Mart guests at the door with a big smile. She's a happy person. Her smile is infectious.
Officer John Reichle works at the Wal-Mart, too, as a part-time security officer. He saw Brown's broken-down chair with the taped-up wheels.
And Brown still had that big grin.
"She has no legs and still comes to work every day," Reichle said. "To me, that's impressive."
Reichle knew he had to help. He spoke to his fellow officers at the Northwest District roll call, urging them to get together and find Brown a replacement chair. Later, Northwest District supervisor Sgt. T. Michael Wilson posted the plea on Facebook.
Wilson's post got a huge response. Churches offered to raise money. Health care agencies offered to donate hospital wheelchairs.
Then Cortez saw the Facebook post.
Cortez suffered a spinal cord injury on June 11, 2012 while on duty. He was searching for a drunken driver on West Washington Street when the suspect crashed into his squad car.
Cortez has good insurance and great support from the community. He's been given wheelchairs over the years. He had one in his garage, barely-used.
Brown saw a picture and knew it was perfect.
On Thursday, Brown met with Cortez, Reichle and Wilson at the store, where they talked to members of the media. Brown thanked them all for thinking of her and helping her.
"Thank you," Brown said. "I'm just overwhelmed with joy right now."