In his first time speaking publicly since being severely wounded while pursuing an armed suspect near Henry Hagg Lake last August, Washington County Cpl. Jeremy Braun said both the trauma of the experience and the support he has received since have been "overwhelming."
Braun and Deputy Chris Iverson of the Washington County Sheriff's Office were struck by pellets from a hunting shotgun as they approached a suspect.
Prosecutors say Dante James Halling stole two guns out of an outdoor safe from a home in Gaston and then went into the woods near the lake, firing on law enforcement officers dispatched to search for him.
Iverson was treated at an area hospital and released the same night. Braun remained at the hospital for more than a month, receiving multiple surgeries before beginning the recovery process.
Speaking with his wife, Joy, and Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett next to him Thursday, Feb. 6, Braun said he was shot multiple times at close range. More than 150 shotgun pellets entered his left arm and neck, puncturing his carotid artery and his jugular vein. He received surgery to reinforce his paralyzed left vocal chord, and he had to relearn to walk and swallow.
Even half a year later, Braun said, he's still removing pellets from his body. Others will be with him for the rest of his life, he added.
Halling has been charged with 15 felonies related to the incident, including six counts of attempted murder because he fired at several responding officers. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts. A trial date is set for April 21.
"These experiences are more traumatizing than I can put into words," Braun said. "But it was made easier through the love and support of so many individuals, businesses and organizations. We cannot possibly thank everybody."
Braun said he will return to work, but he doesn't know exactly when.
"I'm coming back to work, and I will serve this community again," he said. "I'm hoping to do it this year."
Long before he was wounded, Braun said, he embraced the fact that every day he left for work, he might not come home, he said. He kissed his kids goodbye every day before leaving for work, including the day he was injured.
"I didn't come back from work," Braun said, referring to the Aug. 8, 2019, shooting. "I just didn't understand how crappy that would be."
Garrett said the incident reminds people that law enforcement officers and their families deal with the understanding that their loved ones might not come home.
"We treat it in almost a trivial manner because we train hard, we equip our professionals the best way that we can to best ensure their safety, but we can't guarantee that," Garrett said. "This is a really stark reminder of that reality."
Braun said the experience has given him a better understanding of how trauma affects people in a way that will help him in his work.
"To be able to have that kind of insight into other people's lives, I think will make me a much better police officer, a better coach, a better mentor," Braun said. "I'll be able to talk to the young guys coming up and explain to them how quickly things can go badly, and how to prepare your families."
Braun said his wife has been "an absolute rock" throughout the experience.
"My wife brought calm to so many different fronts, to my family with my kids, to my peers, who were looking to her to try to figure out, 'Is this going to be bad,'" Braun said.
Joy Braun said she didn't immediately know the severity of her husband's injuries when she found out about the shooting. She didn't get a phone call notifying her of what happened, because they were living in a trailer while their house was being built and their home phone service wasn't active.
Jeremy Braun's parents told her there had been a shooting and that she should call to check.
"I called somebody else and said, 'Hey, I heard there was a shooting.' And he said, 'Oh no, this is not how you're supposed to find out,'" Joy Braun said.
She called the Sheriff's Office and found out more details about her husband's serious injuries as an officer drove her to OHSU Hospital. Before the incident, she had already mapped out the quickest way from their house to every hospital in the area in case Jeremy Braun was ever injured, she said.
The Brauns said they can't thank enough the medical professionals who treated the wounded corporal in the immediate aftermath of the incident, as well as those who have helped with his recovery.
"They were awesome," Joy Braun said. "The nurses would come in and before they'd leave they would say, 'What do you need? Can we get you water? Can we get you coffee?'"
Jeremy Braun and Iverson, the other deputy who was wounded in the shootout with Halling, were honored just last Thursday, Jan. 30, as "Newsmakers of the Year" by the Royal Rosarians in Portland. They were nominated for the honor by KOIN 6 News, the Pamplin Media Group's television news partner.
As he spoke Thursday, Jeremy Braun grew emotional at times, but he maintained a sense of humor, joking about how he gave the medical staff a hard time and saying he wouldn't subject people in the room to seeing more of his scars, several of which were visible on his neck.
"I recently started referring to myself with my wife, I'm like, 'Now you're married to a pirate,'" Braun said.
He wasn't able to eat solid food for a long time because of the injuries to his throat, and he said he made a list of all the foods he would eat after recovering.
"You're not living until you're excited about pureed French toast," Braun said.
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