HOUSTON (AP) — A Louisiana sheriff's deputy who was critically injured in a July shootout that killed three other Baton Rouge law-enforcement officers is recovering remarkably well at a Houston hospital, doctors said Thursday.
Since his transfer last month to TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital from a Louisiana hospital last month, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Deputy Nicholas Tullier has been able to communicate nonverbally and regain some movement of his body, Dr. Sunil Kothari said at a news conference.
Tullier suffered extensive damage to the left side of his brain from the gunshot and his brain was also deprived of oxygen when his heart stopped after his injury and he had to be resuscitated.
"Given all of that we are surprised at his capacities and progress to date," he said.
Kothari said after Tullier arrived at the hospital, doctors were able to determine the deputy had emerged from a vegetative state and was conscious and aware of his environment.
The father of two teenage sons does have paralysis through many of his limbs and he still can't speak and is limited to answering yes or no questions by moving his head. But Tullier is able to move his left arm and is starting to move his legs, although he is still using a wheelchair.
Despite these challenges, Tullier has days with three to four hours of physical and speech therapy, said Julie Welch, rehabilitation manager for the brain injury and stroke programs at TIRR Memorial Hermann.
The deputy's father, James Tullier, said he and his family were grateful for the progress his son has made.
"Nick's crossed so many hurdles," said James Tullier, who wore a green T-shirt with the hashtag "#tullierstrong." ''We were told he could never communicate ever again. And he can communicate. Is it a miracle? To us, yes ... Nick's definitely a miracle."
A lone gunman, 29-year-old Gavin Long, fatally shot two Baton Rouge police officers and one sheriff's deputy before he was gunned down. Police said Long, an Army veteran from Kansas City, Missouri, was seeking out law enforcement and ambushed the officers.
Two other officers besides Tullier, who was shot in the head and stomach, were wounded in the attack outside a convenience store.
The shooting occurred less than two weeks after 37-year-old Alton Sterling, a black man, was fatally shot by police in Baton Rouge in a confrontation that sparked nightly protests and reverberated nationwide.
Kothari said Tullier will likely be at the hospital for several months but even after he's released, he will still have a long rehabilitation process.
"What we need, what we ask for is continued prayer. Pray for law enforcement officers everywhere," James Tullier said.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at www.twitter.com/juanlozano70