EL PASO, TX (KTSM) – Richard Trejo, Jr., or just “Rick” to his colleagues, has worked for the El Paso 911 Dispatch Center for about 17 years now.

Trejo used to be an officer with the El Paso Police Department, but his life was forever changed when he was paralyzed in an ATV accident in November of 2003.

“I like this version of myself.  I wish it didn’t take this for me to learn.  But, you know, it is what it is,” said Trejo.

Despite his injury and the fact he is now confined to a wheelchair, Trejo has still risen up the ranks at the dispatch center and is now a shift manager.

It’s an important job in what can be a stressful environment, but his co-workers say he knows how to keep everyone motivated and happy.

“It can get very stressful,” said shift supervisor Claudia Nunez. “And it’s always nice to have somebody to kind of like relieve that tension by, you know, putting humor in a situation and rallying the troops and keeping morale high.”

Overseeing that office that handles emergency calls can be a challenge, but Trejo has been overcoming challenges daily since his accident in 2003.

He says he was riding an ATV in West El Paso in a dry stretch of the Rio Grande known as “The Wall” when he lost control of his vehicle.

After his ATV stopped tumbling, Trejo realized the handlebar was pressing into his spine.

“And yeah, as soon as I stopped rolling or tumbling, I knew that something was wrong,” he said. “I couldn’t feel from my chest down.”

The accident forced Trejo to make a career change, moving from EPPD to the dispatch center. He says he is grateful to the City of El Paso for helping to make that happen, but he has certainly repaid them over the years with almost two decades of dedication overseeing 911 operations.

“Rick just has a great attitude,” said Scott Calderwood, Director of the El Paso 911 Center. “You know, he’s had some bad stuff happen in his life, but you’d never notice it when he’s at work.”

Trejo, who was an avid and highly-skilled basketball player before his accident, says he understands now that challenges are unavoidable in life, but there’s always a way to give back.

“I mean, I remember right before the accident it seemed that I had everything that I wanted, and my life was perfect,” he says. “And I guess it had to happen because that’s not the way life is supposed to be.”

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