Galveston, TX – Corporal Nick Tullier, of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, may never walk again, or talk again, or live a normal life, after he was shot three times in the line of duty by cop killer Gavin Long.
But amazingly, after 16 months of fighting an uphill battle for his life every single day, doctors feel that the wounded hero can finally go home.
There’s only one problem: Cpl. Tullier is homeless.
Cpl. Tullier was shot three times on July 17, 2016, rushing into an ambush that had already killed three police officers in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The pre-meditated attack occurred 10 days after five police officers were murdered in Dallas.
Three weeks after Cpl. Tullier was shot, a historic flood swept through Louisiana, destroying 49,000, or 86.6 percent, of the homes in Livingston Parish, where Nick and his family lived, according to statistics posted by WAFB.
“We were oblivious,” Nick’s father James Tullier explained, in an interview with Blue Lives Matter.
James Tullier and the rest of Nick’s family were in their own world, keeping vigil at their Nick’s bedside in the intensive care unit. When they finally came up for air, their world had collapsed yet again.
“We lost our house… We lost everything we owned, except our motor home,” James Tullier explained.
They couldn’t even go home to deal with the mess because Nick was in critical condition, and every day was touch and go for the brave deputy who hadn’t been expected to survive his gunshot wounds.
James, and Nick’s mother Mary, moved into their RV, and have been living in parking lots nearby the various medical facilities where their son has been treated over the past 14 months.
Cpl. Tullier’s fiancé, Danielle McNicoll, stays by Nick’s side 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If she has to leave him, his mother steps in. He is never left alone.
“Nick is trying very hard to talk. It’s going to be extremely challenging for him but I believe he will one day,” Danielle said. “And I believe he will walk one day too. His legs are getting stronger every day.” (see video below)
“God’s got this!” Danielle said optimistically.
Nick’s parents are thrilled that Nick has progressed to the point where he could benefit from outpatient therapy from a home environment, but they’re devastated they don’t have a home to share with him.
“We had flood insurance for our home,” James Tullier said. “They sent two different engineering firms in to inspect our house – both firms said it was a total loss.”
“Our policy for contents was $100,000, and the insurance company wants to give us $12,000,” he explained.
They’re appealing the decision made by American Bankers Flood Insurance of Florida, who is acting as an agent for FEMA, he said. In the meantime, their home is uninhabitable.
Nick and Danielle lived in a third floor apartment before he was shot, so that wouldn’t be an option given the inaccessibility.
“It’s a nightmare – we’re already having this nightmare right now with Nick’s health insurance – but now I think it’s the insurance industry overall,” his father said.
Ongoing health care and insurance for Cpl. Tullier is a tricky business, but it shouldn’t be.
In July of 2017, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed the “Nicholas Tullier Law,” created specifically for the purpose of making sure law enforcement officers like Cpl. Tullier are taken care of if they are permanently and totally disabled by “a catastrophic injury caused by an individual having the specific intent to kill the officer” while “the officer is engaged in the performance of his official duties.”
The law applies to both law enforcement and firefighters.
But coverage by the state under Nick’s law won’t kick in until he has been officially retired from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office. Until that time, he’s still covered by his department, and subject to the determinations of the health management company contracted by the sheriff’s office.
And nobody crafting that legislation could have possibly been considering the double-whammy of a law enforcement officer being shot, and losing their home in a flood, all at the same time.
The problem is the health management company, according to Nick’s father.
He said the company which manages the health care funds of a number of Louisiana parish sheriff’s departments recently decided that Cpl. Tullier had improved as much as he possibly could in the Galveston rehab facility where he was sent when he was discharged from Texas Institute of Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) in Houston.
Last week, out of the blue, they told his family they would be discontinuing coverage at the facility, and sending Nick home.
“They declared he had reached his goals, and didn’t need to be in the rehab facility anymore,” James Tullier said.
He said his son has demonstrated progress with ongoing specific therapies, and that when he’s released, they want him to continue with them. As much as he achieves in therapy, he regresses without it.
But the insurance company has determined “in its infinite wisdom” that a patient who is unable to care for himself in any way, shape, or form, doesn’t merit ongoing coverage for care once he’s discharged from the rehab facility, James Tullier said.
“They aren’t covering anything because they say I do it all, so he doesn’t need it. That’s their argument,” Nick’s fiancé, Danielle, explained.
She, or another family member, have been with Nick 24 hours a day since he was shot. She hasn’t been able to work since that horrible day, and Nick’s paychecks have shrunken significantly without his usual overtime and extra pay from working off-duty details. He’ll be making even less when his department retires him in March of 2018, and he becomes retired on disability.
His parents are still battling with their flood insurance settlement, and have nearly drained their retirement savings in their efforts to assist and be near their son, James Tullier said.
Cpl. Tullier’s family is terribly disappointed by the treatment their son is receiving at the hands of the appointed health management company.
James Tullier talked with East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid J. Gautreaux, III on Nov. 2, and expressed all of his concerns.
He said he believed that Sheriff Gautreaux had the power to override any coverage decisions made by the healthcare management company, because the department is self-insured. He asked the sheriff to override HealthSCOPE’s coverage decisions and provide ongoing care for his son.
The Sheriff’s Office responded to inquiries from Blue Lives Matter, and explained that it “contracts insurance through a third-party company.”
“Unfortunately, the Sheriff cannot override or overrule decisions made by the insurance company,” Public Information Officer Casey Hicks said.
She said Sheriff Gautreaux has been trying hard to assist with the situation.
“After he spoke to Mr. Tullier last week, the Sheriff did call to see if anything could be done in order to reach out to the hospital to allow Nick to have more time there while other arrangements could be made,” Officer Hicks said.
The Sheriff’s Office didn’t hear back from the health management company. HealthSCOPE didn’t return calls requesting comment from Blue Lives Matter.
But on Friday, there was some good news. They got a reprieve.
Cpt. Tullier’s father said they were notified that Nick could stay in the rehab facility “until his family gets a home for him and his fiancé to reside in.”
Which brings them all full circle.
How do you welcome home a homeless law enforcement hero, when his family doesn’t even have a house to bring him home to?
Nick’s parents’ address is whatever business will allow James and Mary to park there for an extended period of time, preferably in walking distance of wherever Nick is at that time.
Cpl. Tullier will have to live in the Houston area upon discharge from the rehab facility in Galveston, near enough for Danielle to take him to and from the TIRR facility, so that he can continue the right kind of therapy for his specific brain injury.
Danielle said they’re still negotiating with HealthSCOPE over Nick’s continuing therapy because the health management company only planned to approve 10 hours of therapy a week, less than half as many as doctors say he should have so that he does not regress.
His fiancé also needs a vehicle that is wheelchair accessible, and that will allow her to mechanically lift Nick’s heavy power chair in and out.
With Danielle out of work caring for Nick, and living at the rehab center with him, and his parents living in their RV, the situation feels desperate to James Tullier.
Even if a handicapped van and an accessible house dropped from the sky tomorrow, they’d still be doing battle with the insurance companies.
“I am extremely disappointed,” he said.
“Promises were made when Nick first got shot. Everybody and their brother said Nick would be taken care of. The state legislature passed a bill they named the Nick Tullier Law, and the intent of the legislature was for all of Nick’s medical expenses to be paid for the rest of his life. But the insurance company seems to have figured out a way around that by determining that he doesn’t need that medical care,” James Tullier said.
They worry that amidst all the other things happening every day, Nick’s sacrifice for his community may be forgotten.
Nobody from his department has visited him in rehab in Texas since the sheriff’s visit last March, his fiancé said.
She worries that “out of sight, out of mind,” could play a factor in the long-term support of Cpl. Tullier.
Everybody acknowledges that the distance between Nick’s hometown, and the medical facilities in Texas, makes things even more difficult.
The East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office had a particularly rough year last year. But they’ve rallied together, and with the community, raised and delivered more than $200,000 in assistance for Cpl. Tullier.
“In my more than 40 years in law enforcement, I have never experienced such heart break and difficulties as we did in the summer of 2016. We faced three months of unprecedented challenges and tragedies, from the shooting of our law enforcement officers to historic flooding,” Sheriff Gautreaux wrote in an email to Blue Lives Matter.
“The loss of Deputy Brad Garafola, and the injuring of Lt. Bruce Simmons and Cpl. Nick Tullier, has taken a toll on our community and our agency. We have tried to come together to rally around the surviving families and those injured to do what we can to show them our love and support,” the sheriff wrote.
“While we can offer our love, support and prayers; oftentimes it is finances that are needed. Nick is an incredibly strong and tenacious fighter and he has overcome great obstacles. We have and will continue to do everything we can legally do as an agency to provide support, and we will continue to reach out to raise funds to help support Nick,” Sheriff Gautreaux wrote.
Officer Hicks said those wishing to help Cpl. Tullier can send checks made payable to the “East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office” with “Cpl. Nicholas Tullier First Responder Fund” in the memo line to: East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, Attn: Finance Division, P.O. Box 3277, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-3277.
Danielle posted the video below to Facebook on November 1. While it’s exciting to see Nick’s progress – a year ago at this time, he was in a coma – he doesn’t look ready to be sent home without continuing professional care.