Three weeks ago, Gary Daugherty was near death after being hit by a robbery suspect fleeing from officers, but Tuesday he sat on his front porch — albeit in a wheelchair — to the cheers of his fellow Washington County sheriff’s deputies.
Daugherty, 46, was released from Quillen Rehabilitation Hospital around 1 p.m. and later said he was surprised to have a police escort all the way home to Fall Branch.
Not only did seven or eight officers and the Blue Knights motorcycle club escort Daugherty home, but once there he was greeted by about 35 additional co-workers.
“This is amazing,” Daugherty said of the homecoming reception. “The camaraderie ... it’s amazing to be a part of it.”
He said he felt good and was ready to get started on his outpatient rehabilitation, which is set to begin Friday.
As for returning to the sheriff’s office patrol division, Daugherty said, “Oh, yes. I can’t wait to get back to my law enforcement family.”
Daugherty was able to get into his house, previously equipped only with front steps, via a wheelchair ramp built by men from his church, Harmony Baptist Church.
Some of those volunteers were also there Tuesday to greet Daugherty as he arrived home.
Daugherty moved to East Tennessee about eight years ago after spending 21 years in the Marine Corps. He chose this area because of the way communities here come together when needed. He said the outpouring of community support that’s been extended to him is the exact reason he moved here.
“I’m not from this area ... when I retired from the military, this is why,” he said with emotion.
The support has been a “morale builder,” he said and makes him anxious to get back to work.
As for his physical health, Daugherty knows there’s a long road ahead.
“I have a lot of rehab .... this is just a start,” he said.
“I’ve got a lot of metal inside,” he said, including his elbow and leg. Daugherty is still not able to bear weight, so he’s confined to a wheelchair. He hopes his right leg will heal enough in the next month so he can begin standing on his own.
Daugherty’s platoon, scheduled to work Tuesday night, were all on hand to show their support for him.
Sgt. Lee Cross, Daugherty’s direct supervisor, was especially grateful for the opportunity to see his friend arrive home.
“The day this happened, I didn’t honestly think he was going to make it. It was that bad. To be three weeks out, it’s amazing, it’s a miracle but at the same time it shows his strength,” Cross said.
Cross saw Daugherty get hit just minutes after he approved Daugherty putting out a spike strip in an attempt to stop a fleeing robbery suspect.
The spike strip roll got bundled up and Daugherty tried to straighten it. As he was retreating to the shoulder of the road, the driver of the car swerved to miss the stop stick. In doing so, he hit Daugherty at an approximate speed of 80 mph.
Daugherty said if he had it all to do over again, he wouldn’t hesitate to act.
“That’s what we’re trained for. Anyone of these guys would have done the same thing,” he said.