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Panguitch welcomes home its 'winner'

PROVO — Tracy Armstrong left Panguitch two months ago in a helicopter, bleeding from four gunshot wounds and fighting for his life.

He came home Thursday to a hero's welcome, paralyzed but alive.

"What I received yesterday, somebody told me, 'You're a winner, that's why they did this for you,"' Armstrong said, choking up on the phone. "I get emotional real easy. Having the whole community literally stop what they were doing yesterday ... and come out and basically honor me, it's overwhelming."

The small Garfield county community had a firetruck, county sheriff car and an ambulance escort Armstrong from the outskirts of town to his home, as people stood on their doorsteps and waved at their friend coming home from Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo.

"It was really neat to show them how much progress I'd made by taking my right arm and touching my nose," Armstrong said. "It was really special. I was in tears most of the time. It was incredible. It was just incredible."

On Aug. 3, Armstrong, 45, a father of nine, was checking in a customer to his Blue Springs Lodge in Panguitch when the customer's son came into the office and began shooting.

The 24-year-old man shot Armstrong four times at point-blank range, piercing his shoulder, vertebrae and lungs, then ran out to accost other nearby campers and even fired shots at Armstrong's son.

The man, Jasson Hines, has since been charged in 6th District Court with 15 charges, including attempted murder with injury, attempted murder and attempted kidnapping.

His case is awaiting a mental competency review before it can proceed.

The shots paralyzed Armstrong from the chest down, but he has use of his left hand and is convinced he'll gain power back in his right hand.

He was going through physical therapy at the hospital, and will continue working at home, but sometimes the burning pain from nerve damage is so bad, he just takes it easy.

Lynn Armstrong, Tracy's wife, came up to Provo to stay near her husband in the hospital and said she was overwhelmed by the offers to help.

"I want to totally thank everybody in that area that offered me a place to stay and dinners," she said. "That was amazing. Honestly, that was totally amazing."

The couple is now readjusting to life back home with their nine children.

Their garage was remodeled by Tracy's brother, real estate partners and altruistic community members.

Instead of a "bare-bones" non-insulated shell, it's now a comfortable, handicap-accessible room and bathroom for Armstrong with a special bed so Lynn can help Tracy into bed herself.

"It was the most unbelievable thing to come home and see this all this completed," Tracy Armstrong said. "We think that it's a special thing that's been done for us. It takes away a little bit of the pain of the loss we feel."


E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com