MONROE, La.-- -
The Wheeler family calls Tyler their walking, talking miracle.
The 25-year-old Wildlife and Fisheries agent is in good spirits, and sporting a few new scars when he invites us into his home to share his story for the very first time.
Wheeler takes us back to January 7th, the night he says changed his life forever.
It was 2:00 a.m. and Wheeler's shift had just ended.
On his drive home, Wheeler saw a swerving jeep heading south on Highway 165.
"I've always told my wife, bad things happen on your way home," says Wheeler.
"We had done passed several bars, and being that it was that late, the vehicle had hit the outside line multiple times. I wanted to check and make sure the driver was okay to drive," says Wheeler.
That's when Wheeler went through the motions of a normal traffic stop at the Hideaway Lounge near Perryville.
"I went back up to the vehicle, and I asked her to step out so we could perform some SFT's which is Standard Field Sobriety Test. At that point in time, she pulled out a weapon, fired multiple shots," says Wheeler.
Wheeler's eyes wander to the ground, as he searches for the details of what happened next.
He recalls the temperature was below freezing.
"It was 16 degrees that night, which is another reason I believe more damage wasn't done. My blood was pumping slower, heart was pumping slower," says Wheeler.
He was shot four times that night, correcting local media outlets on recent reports of being shot five times.
Wheeler begins to show us his scars, two that are on his arm and two more on his neck and head.
The scar on his neck is from one of several surgeries he had to undergo after the shooting.
"This one came out, and actually hit me in the temple. That bullet went through both frontal lobes, and it hit the side of my skull, and it bounced into the back of my brain, and it's actually still there," says Wheeler, referencing his scars.
The last shot fired by the suspect that night was deflected by Wheeler's bullet proof vest.
"That bullet actually hit in-between my shoulder blades, and right over the top of my spine. I still have a bruise there. I believe that was the bullet that had this not kill me, that's the bullet that would've done the most damage," says Wheeler.
Wheeler's partner was the first one on the scene of the crime.
Luckily, the bullets did not hinder Wheeler from speaking.
He recalls telling his partner that he was cold and just wanted to get back into his truck to warm up.
The agent made Wheeler stay down, telling him you've been shot several times and help is on the way.
Wheeler was airlifted to University Health in Shreveport.
The ambush shocked the community and the state, prompting a press conference following the arrest of the two suspects.
"The fact that I have to be here today, talking about another unwarranted attack against one of our law enforcement officers infuriates me," says Governor John Bel Edwards.
The alleged shooter, 31-year-old, Ameythist Baird Rathore, was arrested on one count of attempted first-degree murder.
Thirty-four-year-old Jeremy Gullette was also arrested.
He is accused of helping Rathore escape and attempting to conceal the evidence.
Gullette is charged with accessory to attempted first-degree murder.
According to their Facebook pages, they two are a couple.
Both have long criminal records.
While in Shreveport, Wheeler had to undergo several surgeries including one to stop a blood clot to his brain.
"I was in an induced coma for four days after the shooting, that obviously I didn't wake up in. But, people were able to come in and talk, and they would say something, I wouldn't be able to talk back, but I would make some type of noise, or I would move my hand, move my eyes," says Wheeler.
His friends, family, and co-workers were by his side the entire time.
"I hate for them having to see me like that, because that hurts me to know that they were in pain. And even my wife, for her to have to see me in that kind of shape hurts," says Wheeler.
Weeks later, he was taken to Jackson Methodist Rehab facility in Mississippi.
It was there that Wheeler celebrated his 25'th birthday.
"For the most part, I have recovered from all of those gunshot wounds, other than obviously the part of my head that is missing, which will be repaired probably within the next half month," says Wheeler, as he touches the part of his head where his skull is missing.
On February 11'th, Wheeler and his wife returned home to Monroe.
They now visit a local rehab center three times a week.
"My left leg is a little bit weaker than my right leg. We will work on my left leg strength and my left ankle for sure," says Wheeler.
Fundraisers for Wheeler were held almost weekly, fueling his strength and recovery process.
"The community with their support has been absolutely outstanding. Nothing is better for this parish, than when a town can come together and do great things for people that they don't know from anybody. We haven't had to pay a dime out of pocket, yet. And, it looks like we won't have to," says Wheeler.
What started as a nightmare, is now turning into a happy ending for the Wheeler family.
We asked Wheeler a difficult question that had us all wondering for the past month.
"Should you be alive right now?" I asked.
Wheeler answered without hesitation.
"I believe God had a part in every incident that took place that night. I believe he had his hand on every bullet that came out of the gun, and I believe he directed where those bullets went. It wasn't my time to go," says Wheeler.
Wheeler feels the breath in his lungs and his beating heart serve a purpose.
For that reason, he plans to return to the force and continue to serve.
Wheeler says he expects to be back at work with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in 6 to 7 months.
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