WASECA — Ray and Joyce Langerud waited outside the Waseca Public Safety Center on Monday morning to get the first in-person glimpse of their grandson in months.
The grandparents of Waseca police officer Arik Matson were joined by hundreds of people who lined sidewalks to support the recovering police officer who returned home for the first time since being critically wounded more than 10 months ago.
The Langeruds got to see their grandson walk — with a little assistance from his wife, Megan Matson, into the police station.
“We hope every day he'll get a little stronger,” Ray Langerud said. “We're there for him whenever he needs us.”
Arik Matson, 33, was shot in the head Jan. 6 while responding with other officers to a suspicious person report. He had multiple surgeries and spent the past several months in a Nebraska rehabilitation facility. He will continue to receive therapy in Minnesota.
Tyler Robert Janovsky, 38, who was wanted on drug charges, pleaded guilty to the shooting. He is to be sentenced Nov. 6, and is expected to get 35 years in prison.
Matson's maternal grandparents hoped to give him a hug after he arrives at his home in Freeborn on Monday afternoon. But they came from Albert Lea to also see him in Waseca because they wanted to witness the show of support firsthand.
“Everybody has been so great to him, and we're so thankful,” Ray Langerud said.
Law enforcement officers and other first responders were waiting as Matson arrived at the Waseca Municipal Airport and led a parade down State Street to a small celebration inside the police station.
Carrying a “Welcome home” sign he made himself, John Hollen, of Waseca, was among the many people who have never met Matson but waited outside under flurries to give a thank-you wave as the parade came by.
“I'm here to show support for local law enforcement and to show condolences to an officer who was hurt in the line of duty,” he said.
Many of the workers at Jobs Plus Inc. took a break from their usual duties to make signs and cheer on Matson. The organization provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Worker Angie Ulmen met Matson through her father, who is also a police officer.
“He is a very nice guy. He is amazing,” Ulmen said about Matson.
Standing across the street, Dan Barnick and Dominic Dreyling came from Albert Lea for the first of two times they planned to stand in support of Matson. They know him through a shared love of hunting and mutual contacts in law enforcement (Barnick is a Freeborn County Jail officer, and Dreyling has family members in law enforcement).
“He never met a stranger. He always had a smile on his face. Always had a joke to be had,” Barnick recalled of his interactions with Matson.
They also intend to be a part of a welcome-home drive-by celebration at 2 p.m. Saturday at Edgewater Park in Matson's hometown of Albert Lea.
People also can support the Matsons with a financial gift. The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association is collecting funds online to help the Matson family purchase a wheelchair accessible vehicle. Go to www.gofundme.com/f/matson-family-car.
Nearly $23,000 had been raised as of Monday afternoon. Angie Itschert and Danica Scheunemann said the goal is $80,000. The association staff members met the Matson family virtually while helping with an association newsletter dedicated to the Matsons.
Itschert and Scheunemann said they were most struck by the Matsons' resiliency, noting they have been separated for much of his recovery due to pandemic visitor restrictions.
“They are one strong family,” Scheunemann said.