BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office Deputy Nick Tullier has had at least 23 surgeries since he was shot nine months ago. He's now walking on a treadmill with the help of therapists, moving his legs, and has a power chair he controls by turning his head, but he still has a long road ahead.
The deputy was shot three times on July 17, 2016 in an ambush shooting on law enforcement.
A CT scan of Nick's brain shows bullet fragments throughout, including in his brain stem and also shows skull fractures. Plus, Nick's exit wound in his abdomen has been an issue from the beginning.
"Very early in Nick's recovery, you could stick your fist into the hole. Last week, this wound opened up again after nine months. Now, it's more like a tunnel that you can stick your finger all the way through," said Sheri Kirley, a friend of the Tullier family.
Kirley testified for SB 222 on Tuesday, April 25 on behalf of Nick's parents, James and Mary Tullier. In the case of EBRSO, any deputy injured on the job gets 100 percent of their salary and health benefits paid for 100 percent of the first year. After that, they can use any accrued paid time off and six weeks for crisis leave. The maximum they would pay out of pocket is $2,650. The sheriff's office would then pick up 100 percent of other costs.
After that, if the deputy cannot return to work, they would most likely apply to qualify for disability retirement, but that means they can keep their health insurance at a cost of $6,000 a year plus deductible. SB 222, introduced by Sen. Dale Erdey, would pick up that cost at the state's tab for officers and firefighters injured on the job.
"He's gone through 23 surgeries thus far and more are anticipated, so certainly his health insurance is of vital importance to his family and that's what this bill does, basically continue payments and co-payments on behalf of Nick Tullier," said Sen. Erdey.
"The costs are going to be more than Nick will ever be able to pay out of pocket. When you think of what it costs to be at TIRR and when you think of what Nick needs later on in life with a home that's going to have to be made especially for him, vans, anything he'll need. We're unsure of how many surgeries he's still going to have to have between now and the rest of his life and all those costs just add up over time," said Kirley. "Nick is a different case. He's going to be permanently disabled and he will never be able to go back to the sheriff's office to work."
Sen. Erdey says currently, there are 70 such cases statewide, but this bill is very specific. It only applies in cases where an officer or firefighter was intentionally injured, such as in the ambush last year. There are four such cases.
"Those individuals who put their lives on the line of duty to protect us and in doing so, we owe it to them to help them through the recovery process," said Sen. Erdey.
The money would come out of the state's Office of Risk Management, the same agency responsible for paying any family members of officers or firefighters killed in the line of duty. Sen. Erdey says it will cost $34,886 per year to pay for the four people who would qualify under SB 222.
SB 222 has made its way through the committee and now awaits a vote of the full Senate.