BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Nearly four months after being shot during an ambush on law enforcement officers, East Baton Rouge Sheriff's deputy Nick Tullier was transported from a Baton Rouge hospital to a rehabilitation hospital in Houston Wednesday morning.
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"It has been our honor to serve Deputy Tullier, and we pray for his continued healing as he begins the next phase of his recovery," said K. Scott Wester, president and CEO of Our Lady of the Lake.
As he watched the medical transport in progress, Nick's father James said his son still has a long road ahead.
"We know why Nick's here," James Tullier said. "People have been praying. It's the power of prayer."
Tullier was shot three times including wounds to his head, abdomen and shoulder during a shooting on July 17, 2016 in Baton Rouge. Six law enforcement officers were shot in the ambush. Three of them died. The gunman was shot and killed by an officer who responded to the scene.
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Police shut down portions of the two interstates leading to Baton Rouge Metro Airport Wednesday morning so that Tullier could be quickly transported a waiting medical plane. Tullier will now be treated at The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.
"This is actually bittersweet. I'm telling you, we've been waiting for this day for so long," said Deputy Tullier's mother Mary Tullier. "I'm just thrilled to death. I just can't wait to get there, can't wait to get there, can't wait to see Nick improve. He's come a long way."
Tullier's parents lost their home during the August flood. They moved a trailer into the parking lot of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge so they, along with Nick's fiancé, could remain close to him for all 122 days. There was a time some doctors said Nick would not make it past even one day.
"Their first prognosis was Nick wouldn't live for one day, then it became two days, then five days, then 21 days and Nick passed every one of those hurdles. It got to a point to where it looked like they were scratching their heads because what they had originally seen, the outcome they projected was not happening. It was in God's hands the whole time," said James Tullier.
"We never believed that. We know Nick. We know his heart is strong and he never gives up. We knew he wouldn't give up," said Nick's mother Mary.
"We've had peace in our hearts from day one and we never listened to what the doctors said because God is bigger. We have faith. Nick is stronger than this," said Nick's fiancé Danielle McNicoll.
Tullier has undergone multiple surgeries.
"He's aware that we're with him," James Tullier said. "He is somewhat in a non-conscious state still, but that is what this next hospital is for. They'll be moving up his levels of consciousness. Nick, for a couple of months, has been doing things like we would ask him to move his hands, move his feet, move his toes and he's been doing that. It's cognitive response and that's another thing that was not supposed to happen, but it did happen and it is happening."
Nick's father has posted near daily updates on a Facebook page giving progress reports on his son.
As several law enforcement officers escorted Nick's ambulance to the airport, some Baton Rouge Police officers stood at attention on the interstate to pay respect to their fellow comrade.
Then at the airport, there was a large presence of officers standing at attention for their fellow deputy, including EBRSO's Sgt. Bruce Simmons who was also shot July 17 and is recovering.
"I'm excited. I'm so happy. I'm so proud of the progress Nick has made and this is his next step," Simmons said.
Simmons saw Nick get shot and when he went to help him, Simmons too was also shot. The two were in the middle of drinking coffee when the call came out for help and left to help another deputy.
"I went and saw him on day 100. He did open his eyes and we looked at each other and there's no doubt in my mind Nick knew I was there. I talked to him and told him we were going to finish that cup of coffee as soon as they got him moved," Simmons said.
Deputy Tullier arrived in Houston around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday and was moved to TIRR, where he will begin his next phase of recovery.
Nick's father wanted to thank everyone for all the prayers. He said it's the power of prayer that kept their son alive and asks for everyone to continue those prayers.