Missoula paused Wednesday afternoon to welcome home a Montana Highway Patrol Trooper critically wounded this spring in the line of duty.
Wade and Lindsey Palmer’s flight from the University of Utah hospital landed in Missoula midday Wednesday. Roughly 100 people lined West Broadway Street in front of Saint Patrick Hospital to honor the Palmer's return to western Montana and cheer on his motorcade escort.
Palmer’s procession included no fewer than 60 emergency responder vehicles representing several agencies: city police, county sheriff, Highway Patrol, city fire, rural fire and Forest Service.
For Missoula’s Selene Koepke, Palmer’s homecoming is personal.
"I’m actually a deputy county attorney and I’ve worked with Wade that way," she says.
Koepke stood with friends and co-workers, each holding a letter spelling out “Welcome Home Wade!”
"He’s a wonderful guy," Koepke says. "He’s a fantastic trooper. He loves his family and he’s very dedicated to the Missoula Community."
"Not too many people get shot in the head and survive. I’m glad he’s alive," Dennis Startin says.
And Palmer was not only shot in the head. 28-year-old Johnathan Bertsch is also accused of shooting Palmer in the neck and face back in mid-March. Bertsch is also accused of shooting Casey Blanchard and his mom Julie, and killing Shelley Hayes.
Dennis Startin says the incident was a wake-up call. Missoula, he says, is much more violent than it used to be.
"I was born and raised here, and it's getting worse. I remember being able to walk from downtown at 2:00 in the morning and not have to worry about anything. It’s getting worse."
St. Patrick employee Ben Duman felt it important to take a few minutes from his day to welcome Trooper Palmer back to Montana.
"I just want to wish him and his family the best in his recovery. I know it’s going to be long and it’s far from over, but just want to wish him the best."
Missoula was not the Palmer’s final stop Wednesday. The procession took them home to Stevensville in the Bitterroot Valley where the family’s friends and neighbors were expected to welcome them back in grand style.