TJ Webb Survives Multiple Gunshot Wounds, Wins Chalk Up Community Choice Award
To celebrate the start of the Open in March, we created the Chalk Up Community Choice Awards to honor one man and one woman that embody the spirit of the CrossFit Community. After receiving so many inspirational stories, the staff landed on two community members. TJ Webb of CrossFit Lewes is the male honoree after surviving multiple gunshot wounds sustained in the line of duty and inspiring his fellow CrossFitters with mental toughness during his recovery.
The details: Webb is an officer with the Milford Police Department in Delaware. He is assigned to the Violent Fugitive Task Force with the US Marshal Service. In December 2020, they attempted to apprehend an individual wanted for three attempted homicides. They exchanged gunfire with the individual, resulting in Webb sustaining severe injuries.
- “Five rounds struck me in my body,” Webb explained. “My injuries were: femur, both my hands and wrists were broken. One round went through my left shoulder and two rounds went through my right arm. Another round ricocheted from my body armor and landed in my face.”
- “When I woke up on the way to the hospital from the injury I knew — without knowing what my injuries were yet — I knew that they were pretty, pretty severe and things were going to be a little different.”
Attacking the recovery process: While Webb sustained serious damage, he did not respond by wallowing in his sorrow. Instead, he began looking forward to getting better and being present for his family. He explained that gunshot wounds are a possibility as a law enforcement officer and that it was “just the card” in his hand that day.
- “When I did wake up in the hospital a day or two later, I realized everything was still attached,” Webb continued. “Some of it by pin screws, but it was still attached.”
- “I just knew the one thing I could do was look forward and move forward and get myself better, not just for myself. I have a family that depends on me as well. For me to sit back and say ‘woe is me’ and just kind of be upset about it, it’s not gonna make anything better.”
Inspiring others by example: As Webb went through the recovery process, the other members of CrossFit Lewes noticed his mental toughness and his positive attitude. Stephanie DeMalto, the community member who originally nominated Webb, explained that the other people at the gym began to notice his attitude in the face of adversity.
- “The very first time my husband and I went to visit him, his wife, and his son at their home a few weeks after the shooting, that was when I definitely knew TJ had entered into a whole new realm of mental strength,” DeMalto explained. “I was fully prepared for our first visit to be emotional, but it wasn’t!
- “It was really just like every other time we had been with him. We sat around their kitchen table and laughed, had a few drinks, and really just enjoyed each other’s company like there hadn’t JUST been a life-changing experience for them a few weeks prior.”
The source of the mindset: Getting better for his family played a very prominent role in Webb attacking his recovery, but he also explained that his training style benefited him as he approached each day. Certain parts of his recovery may have been difficult, but CrossFit helped him embrace the adversity.
- “I mean, in CrossFit, you know, you go, you get to the box for the day and you see what the WOD is. A lot of times you don’t like that WOD, but you’re there and you know, you got to do it,” Webb said. “There’s no getting out of that. I don’t know about any other boxes, but at my box, you’re not gonna walk out because you don’t want to do the WOD that day.”
- “That was kind of it for me. It was, ‘I’m looking at this as like a WOD. This is the workout for the day, and I get through it.’ And that’s how I get through CrossFit. The WODs are tough, the workouts are tough. You don’t always want to do them but you don’t have a choice. You got to get it done.”
DeMalto explained that Webb’s approach to his recovery convinced her to make changes in her own life. She said that unforeseen challenges or circumstances will arise in the future, but mentality when approaching them is everything. DeMalto said that Webb embodies positive self-talk, surrounding yourself with people who lift you up, and not allowing failure to be an option.
- “You always want to expect the unexpected,” Webb said. “That’s where I’ve always lived my life. Regardless of what your situation is, whether it is something like mine with a work-related injury, or if it’s falling off a ladder or some terrible car accident.”
- “You still owe it — not only to yourself — but to your family, your friends, and all your other loved ones that you’re going to get back in the game. You’re going to get better. That’s just kind of a mindset you gotta keep. You’ve got to keep looking forward to tomorrow and you got to keep looking towards your family and making sure that they’re good.”
Providing support: As Webb continued to recover, the members of CrossFit Lewes banded together to raise funds for him and his family. They held a members-only Hero WOD due to COVID-19 restrictions. In order to participate, the members had to bring a $100 donation. Although many others contributed far more while spreading the word around the community. Their efforts raised roughly $12,000.
- “As a family, as a box, we are a family,” Webb said about the fundraising efforts. “With this situation that I’d gone through, it just redefined the word ‘family’ for me. What that group of people did for me, for my wife, and my son, it was amazing. There is no way I could ever repay them for what they did.”
Bottom line: Webb went through a situation that the majority of CrossFitters will never experience. However, he showcased a mental strength that many members of the community will want to emulate in the future. For this reason — and many others — Webb deserves the honor of Chalk Up Community Choice Award winner.