Trooper Palmer still receiving care in Salt Lake Hospital; challenges ahead

Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Palmer

The Montana Highway Patrol trooper shot in the line of duty last month continues to receive medical treatment at University Hospital in Salt Lake City, the law enforcement agency said Tuesday.

Tom Butler, chief of the Montana Highway Patrol, said Trooper Wade Palmer has shown indications that he recognizes certain people, though all of his interactions remain non-verbal.

The extent of what Palmer understands remains unknown at this time, Butler said in a statement issued Tuesday morning.

“The tasks that you or I take for granted have become much more significant for Wade,” Butler said. “His brain is becoming more aware of the sensory input and is relearning how to connect the dots, so to speak.”

Palmer was shot in the neck, face, and head on March 15 after locating the suspect involved in a Missoula shooting that injured two and killed one. He was initially transported to St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula in critical condition and later flown to Salt Lake City.

The Montana Department of Justice and Highway Patrol have been candid over the last month when updating Palmer’s condition. The trooper has received widespread support as communities across the West rally for his recovery.

“Nearly every day, Palmer undergoes physical therapy for continued strengthening of his left arm and leg,” the Highway Patrol said. “Limited movement has been detected on his right side. He is scheduled to have the wiring and screws from his reconstructive jaw surgery removed this week.”

Palmer was shot while still in his patrol car near the Evaro Bar by Johnathan Bertsch, who faces one count of deliberate homicide and three counts of attempted deliberate homicide in connection with the shootings in Missoula and Evaro.

The Montana Highway Patrol has created a webpage with information about the Palmer shooting. The page includes information on Palmer’s condition, a list of fundraisers, and a timeline of the events that occurred on March 15.

Palmer is a graduate of Missoula Sentinel High School. He and his family live in Stevensville.