Five Years Later: July 17, 2016

It's a dark day in Baton Rouge's history but five years later, we look at where the six families and surviving officers are at now.

“What have the last five years been like? I don’t know. Like we’re trapped in a nightmare for one thing,” said Nick Tullier’s father James Tullier.

“Well, it’s been very hard, you know, taking care of Nick 24 hours a day, tending to his needs, tending to his insurances. It’s been hard. It’s been very hard for us,” said Nick’s mother Mary Tullier.

It’s a day in Baton Rouge history that just about every single person can remember exactly where they were and what they were doing on July 17, 2016.

“It’s not a happy date, never is when it rolls around because it brings back memories that happened that day. The shock of getting woken up by a telephone call and trying to find Nick and then getting another call telling us to get to the hospital,” said James.

“To be honest with you, I’m so tired that it’s just another day with me. I mean it comes and goes. It is what it is and as long as Nick is doing well, I’m fine. He wants to survive. I want him to survive and we’ll fight it to the end,” said Mary.

To avoid adding more pain and perhaps even PTSD for the families and cops involved, Unfiltered with Kiran chose not to rewind to the “what all happened and how” on that early Sunday morning.

But that one day did change many lives forever.

For one, East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Deputy Nick Tullier’s parents James and Mary are now his full-time caregivers.

“He’s told his children that he regrets getting up and going to work that morning because he thought that he would stay home that day, actually he had vacation scheduled for that weekend and of course with all the situation going on, his vacation was cancelled,” said Mary.

“We were making a lot of progress with Nick until Covid hit and then anybody that’s a traumatic brain injury patient or their family know that they have to have therapy and it has to be ongoing, and when therapy stops, they tend to lose group. Well Nick’s therapy stopped just before Covid hit,” said James.

Meaning five years later, Nick has lost a lot of gained ground. For now, he remains in the hospital. In fact, exactly five years later is day 60 for this particular stay.

“Back in 2017 before we left TIRR, the therapists there had Nick driving his power chair hisself using head array with head controls and we had video of Nick chasing his therapist with his power chair,” said James.

Other lives changed forever include wives and children of three fallen heroes — Sgt. Brad garafola, officer Montrell Jackson & Officer Matthew Gerald.

Five years later, Sgt. Garafola’s wife Tonja and their three children have obviously gotten older. Braley is now 20-yrs-old. Last year in the month of July, she started the Brad Garafola Vest Fund in her dad’s honor. She raises money to buy Angel Armor vests for CALEF, the Capital Area Law Enforcement Foundation, a non-profit that started after this particular day in Baton Rouge. The vests are meant to protect officers from high powered rounds including rifle rounds.

Each vest costs nearly two grand. In her first year, Braley raised enough to buy five vests for officers and she got to pick who received them, with her leaning towards those with families and children. One of the recipients last year had patches made reading “Braley’s angels” and proudly wears it on his new vest.

This year, her goal is to double it and raise enough to buy at least 10 vests.

Meanwhile, Brad Jr. is starting college this year at Southeastern pursuing criminal justice with hopes of following in his dad’s shoes.

Their youngest Samantha is now 12-yrs-old.

Officer Jackson’s wife Trenisha has left no stone unturned when it comes to honoring her hero. The Montrell Lyle Foundation started in 2016 and since then, she’s been raising money to give away bikes, barbies, balls, and shoes, all things montrell absolutely loves, shoes and children. It’s also why she started Badges and Booksacks in 2019 and that too gets bigger every single year.

One of officer Jackson’s final Facebook post mentioned the words “don’t let hate infect your heart.” Trenisha had that phrase trademarked and raised money for the foundation named after her husband.

Their son Mason was only four months old when he lost his father. Today, he’s a young boy at 5-yrs-old and his mom’s greatest joy in life.

Officer Gerald’s wife Dechia is now in an externship to become a medical lab tech and will be graduating with an associate’s degree.

They had two kids together, Fynleigh, who dreams to barrel race one day and Baby Buttons, who was conceived just days before July 17, 2016. Falyn, who carried his dad’s nickname of buttons because of his blue eyes, is now going into pre-k4 this year and hopes to start cattle sorting with the family. Matt’s stepdaughter Dawclyn is now headed to high school and plans to ride in the high school rodeo. Dechia does have another baby boy Jensyn, and she said he keeps them on their toes.

Sgt. Bruce Simmons was shot in the arm and has struggled with getting it back to 100%. Five years later, he said “I’m doing good. I officially retired from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office on April 23, 2020. My arm is healed about as good as it’s going to. It’ll never be like it was, but I’m still blessed to still be here and still have it. I’m still dealing with why I left. I miss the job and some of the brothers and sisters I worked with, but due to a lot of issues I was met with when I went back after my second set of surgeries, it was better for me to leave than stay.”

Sgt. Simmons and Deputy Tullier were just down the street that day when the heard the distress call from their fellow brother and rushed to the scene. Nick took three bullets that changed his life forever.

“Nick was shot in the head on the left side. The bullet actually went in, took his ear off. The ear actually had to be put back on, but it took all the bone here, fragmented all the bone and he’s gone fragments of the shrapnel from the gunshot all in the brain and it hit the back of his skull, split that skull and it’s all in his brain stem so the brain stem is why he can’t move. He moves involuntarily. The left side controls all his swallowing. He can’t swallow, he aspirates. He keeps pneumonia, gets all kinds of bugs in the lungs from pneumonia so we suffer with that. But Nick also has a shunt in the head to release some of the fluid that gathers around his brain,” said Mary. “That gunshot wound just tore his abdomen to pieces. He’s had over 30 surgeries alone just on the abdomen and then he was shot in the left arm and we still have shrapnel come up out of that arm. Every once in a while, I have to get the tweezers and get the shrapnel out. It’ll just move itself up. Nick remembers everything about that day. He remembers where he was, when he was shot, where he was when he was shot”

“His brain is all there. The damage he got to some of his brain and his brain stem causes his brain not to be able to make the body function like we normally do without thinking. Well, it takes Nick effort. Nick is considered a quadriplegic,” said James.

Despite how difficult you may think Nick’s life is, the truth is he is the one pushing forward.

“Certain things are going on with Nick and of course they’re wanting us to talk about end-of-life care and stuff like that. He’s not ready for that. I asked him the other day,’do you want to be resuscitated if your heart stops,’ and he said, ‘yes’,” said Mary. “He depends on us to suction him so he can breathe. He depends on us to take care of everything that’s he’s going through.”

“I’m going to be honest, like I told them at the legislature, he poops in a bag. He breaths through a machine. How is that living? It’s not a life but he pushes forward.”

The sixth officer injured that day was Chad Montgomery, grazed by a bullet on his head, something he said left him with PTSD and many sleepless nights. Five years later, officer Montgomery remains an officer at the Baton Rouge Police Dept.

Now there’s a reason this entire time, Unfiltered with Kiran chose to avoid one specific word when referencing five years.

“I tend to think of anniversary as a celebration day. When somebody has an anniversary, everybody says congratulations. You can’t say that to any of us, any of the ones that got shot. It’s just not a celebratory day. It’s not something to be happy about,” said James.

So, five years later, you may ask what you can do to help. The one thing all families will ask you doesn’t cost you a thing.

“The prayers are going to be about my biggest asking everyone to continue praying for him and not just him, but for all the others that were hurt that day. It’s not easy. It’s not easy for anyone to lose anyone. We didn’t lose Nick, but he lost his life. His children lost their father. His brothers lost their little brother,” said Mary.

The Tulliers said it’s the public’s love and prayers over the past five years that have been the biggest blessing. In fact, they have boxes of all the letters people have sent over the years and read every single thing to Nick.

If you would like to help donate to any of these causes:

Nick Tullier Fund

Brad Garafola Vest Fund

CALEF Vests for Officers

Buy “Don’t Let Hate Infect Your Heart” Shirts

Email: Trenisha Jackson’s Badges & Bookbags

To mail letters to Deputy Nick Tullier:

Nick Tullier Strong

P.O. Box 84810

Baton Rouge, La 70884

About Kiran Chawla 574 Articles
I'm an Emmy & Murrow Award winning investigative reporter who simply loves my job!

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