Shooting victim Casey Blanchard has returned to his home in Stevensville from the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City where he received treatment for severe gunshot wounds. He was shot on the evening of March 14, 2019, in Missoula when he exited his vehicle to check on a motorist who he thought needed assistance. His mother Julie was wounded in the same incident and his friend Shelly Hays was killed.
Later Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Palmer, also from Stevensville, was shot attempting to locate the suspect involved in the shootings that injured Blanchard and his mother and killed Hays. An hour after authorities began looking for the suspect’s white SUV, Trooper Palmer found the vehicle near Evaro and was shot three times as he approached the rig parked on Highway 93. He and Blanchard were both stabilized at Providence St. Patrick Hospital before being flown to Utah. Palmer, who was shot three times in the head, neck and face has not yet been able to speak yet due to his injuries.
Blanchard was shot eight times and wounded in the left arm, right chest, spine, abdomen and both legs and has undergone ten surgeries. On April 16, 2019, he was moved to the hospital’s rehabilitation care unit. He and his wife Leah drove home last Saturday where he will continue with rehabilitation therapy.
Johnathan Bertsch, 28, of Arlee, was arrested without further incident not far from the scene where Palmer was shot. He is charged with one count of deliberate homicide and three counts of attempted deliberate homicide. His bail remains set at $2 million.
In a statement released by the Department of Justice, the Blanchards said before leaving Utah, “These past few months, we’ve been surrounded by a strong medical team here at the University of Utah that kept us moving at every hurdle. Although Casey is now a paraplegic and has other limitations, we are both adjusting to this huge change to our lives and we are continuously improving every day.
“We want to thank Casey’s medical team, along with the amazing troopers who let us in with open arms during our stay here. We also want to thank our hometown for all the support, love, and prayers that have been sent our way. We truly couldn’t have come out as strong as we have without you guys.”
The DOJ announced that the Blanchards would be arriving in Stevensville around 7 p.m. on Saturday but the drive home apparently got ahead of schedule, causing many people who came to welcome Blanchard home at the highway turnoff to Stevensville to miss the event.
“I can’t recall an incident in recent years in Montana that brought so many people together in support as that tragic night in March,” Attorney General Tim Fox said in the press release. “The outpouring of assistance from across Montana and in Salt Lake City on behalf of Casey and his family has been incredible.”
In the days ahead, Blanchard will begin home-based therapy as his recovery continues. While the family is happy to share this news publicly, they also respectfully request privacy as they readjust to life at home.