Injured Montana trooper regains consciousness

SALT LAKE CITY – The work partner of a Montana Highway Patrol trooper hospitalized in Salt Lake City after being shot on duty shared an update about Trooper Wade Palmer – and expressed his gratitude at the support shown by Utah law enforcement.

Palmer's been staying at the University of Utah Hospital for nearly three weeks, after he was shot in the neck, face and head near Missoula, Montana.

On Thursday, people came and went from University Hospital in the drizzle. One car pulled into the parking lot with a license plate beginning with the letters "MHP" – an unmarked Montana Highway Patrol vehicle.

The two people in the car are far from home, in a hard situation. Troopers Mike Burman and Alex Hiday work with Trooper Wade Palmer every day. They responded the night Palmer was shot – Hiday directly to Palmer's side and Burman to the ensuing manhunt.

"We haven't really experienced having an officer injured this badly," Palmer said. "It's a new ground for us."

Not only new ground, but they're coping with it in an unfamiliar place. They've been by Palmer's side for several days at the hospital and staying in Salt Lake.

Tuesday brought good news, as Palmer awoke from the medically induced coma he had been in since he arrived.

"The fact that he's progressing is very uplifting," Burman said.

He said he's been talking to Palmer, even if Palmer can't quite respond back.

"He's able to give indications to us, and I can tell you, that – I know Wade's there," Burman said.

Burman also knows someone else is there, or rather, something else. A newfound family in Utah made up of fellow men and women behind the badge.

Several agencies and the Utah Fraternal Order of Police have been providing meals, donations, rides and standing watch outside the hospital room 24/7.

Two officers are always posted outside the doors. On Wednesday, Salt Lake Police took their turn – and SLCPD said many of their officers volunteer their own time to do so.

"He would be amazed, because [these are] strangers, really, for the Utahns that are taking care of us – they didn't know him," Burman said.

As long as Palmer is in the hospital in Utah, agencies like Salt Lake City Police said they'll be there to help.

That way, Burman can focus on the progress of his partner and good friend.

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