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Montana trooper run over by suspect and placed on life support has phenomenal recovery

Lincoln County Sheriff Deputy Clint Heintz relied on his skills as a combat medic to save Trooper Lewis Johnson’s life

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Montana Highway Patrol/KPAX/YouTube

By Hilary Matheson
Daily Inter Lake

KALISPELL, Mont. — Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Lewis Johnson made a brief public appearance to thank supporters and well-wishers at Logan Health Medical Center on Sunday, 10 days after he suffered critical injuries while pursuing a vehicle in Lincoln County.

“You guys all made time ... out of your lives to be here for this event and I wanted to thank you for that in person,” Johnson told an audience of law enforcement colleagues, elected officials, family and friends with his wife and fellow Trooper, Kate Johnson, by his side.

The occasion, a rally held in Johnson’s honor, also served as a moment to recognize the efforts of first responders and medical personnel who assisted in caring for him in the moments after he was struck by a fleeing vehicle near Eureka on Feb. 16. Sitting in the front row was one of his close friends, Deputy Clint Heintz of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, who came to Johnson’s aid shortly after the collision.

Behind the couple, a slideshow of family photos of the Johnsons and their young son Ryder was projected across two screens flanking the room.

“Unfortunately though, my level of comfort, while being treated very well at this hospital, I don’t think I can make it through this entire event. Just simply because of physical and emotional pain that has resulted from the events of [Feb. 16], but I did want to come down here and personally thank you for coming and show you that I am here. I am fighting. But it’s going to be a long fight. A very, very long fight,” he said, his voice trailing off. “So thank you very much.”

Logan Health Chief of Surgery Dr. Erik Peltz said the trooper has made remarkable progress.

“When he arrived, he had severe injuries, multiple crushed ribs on the right, he had a collapsed right lung, he had a bruised right lung,” Peltz said. “He had lacerations to several intra-abdominal organs and a critical spine fracture. So it was remarkable the care he received simply to get him to us to allow this opportunity that we’re talking about today. He went to the [operating room] very, very quickly with two of our expert neurosurgeons and then on to the intensive care unit.”

After spending several days on life support in intensive care, the trooper recovered to where he could get out of bed and attend the rally, Peltz said.

“This is really truly amazing. I’ve worked in level-one trauma centers and this is a phenomenal course,” said Peltz, who asked medical staff to stand for recognition. “And so he has an opportunity here very soon, hopefully, to go to a dedicated neuro rehab facility to help with ongoing support.”

Right now, Johnson faces mobilization care such as physical therapy and occupational therapy as well as pain control management, Peltz said.

“He has recovered so phenomenally that I think within the next several days, we will be looking for an opportunity to try to help transition him to that next level of care where the focus will be on that long-term support and long-term function,” Peltz said.

From there, the trooper will seek care from a neurologic specialty program in Colorado.

Johnson’s sister, Jill Streit, said her older brother, who she described as her best friend, joined the Army National Guard at the end of his junior year in high school and decided he was going to serve others as his life mission. Now, he has a new mission.

“And that mission is to recover from this,” she said.

Streit held full confidence in her brother.

“He’s not only going to recover from this, but he’s also going to help others that deal with this same kind of tragedy in the future,” she said.

He sustanined his injuries Feb. 16 while assisting the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office in a vehicle pursuit near Eureka.

“Trooper Johnson exited his vehicle to apprehend the suspect. The suspect, in an apparent deliberate attempt, ran over Trooper Lewis Johnson causing serious injuries. I’m grateful that Lincoln County Sheriff Deputy Clint Heintz was there and acted quickly to save Trooper Johnson’s life with his combat medic skills. Deputy Heintz ran to Trooper Lewis Johnson and immediately called for an air ambulance — never leaving Trooper Johnson’s side. Deputy Heintz I want to personally thank you, sir,” said Col. Steve Lavin of the Montana Highway Patrol during the rally.

Lincoln County Sheriff Darren Short later recognized Heintz’s efforts with an award.

This is Heintz’s second year with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. Prior to becoming a deputy, he worked eight years in law enforcement in Eureka. He also has 18 years of service in the Montana Army National Guard.

Johnson was transported to Logan Health Medical Center by an ALERT air ambulance.

Law enforcement personnel, including U.S. Border Patrol agents and a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks warden, continued the pursuit, according to officials with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

The suspect, Jason Allen Miller, 41, of Rexford, was taken into custody following the collision and remains in Lincoln County Detention Center on felony charges of attempted deliberate homicide, criminal endangerment and criminal mischief, according to Short.

“I assured the family last week. ... I’m going to assure all of you here today. This individual ... is going to receive the full attention of the Montana Department of Justice,” Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said at the rally. “We’re going to be putting our best prosecutors on this case. This individual is going to get what’s coming.”

Earlier, Knudsen recognized the collaborative efforts of Montana’s law enforcement system.

“We’re family. And when a member of our family gets injured or goes down, we all feel it. This is tough,” Knudsen said. “But I was, just prior to this, up with Lewis and Kate. Their spirits are good. The fact that Lewis was down here and spoke to us all, that’s a testament to the care he’s getting — to the miracle and he’s still with us.”

He also thanked the various law enforcement agencies involved in the pursuit.

“Thank you for helping to get our brother back,” Knudsen said, emphasizing that Montana law enforcement officers train together at the same academy.

“We recognize you’re probably each other’s next closest backup,” he said.

Congressman Ryan Zinke, U.S. Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester, in addition to Gov. Greg Gianforte and his wife Susan, passed along written or recorded video messages offering their thoughts, prayers and support for the Johnsons and Montana’s law enforcement community.

“Trooper Johnson and his wife Trooper Kate Johnson exemplify the very best things about our state and our great nation: service, courage and resilience,” Daines said in his video message. “Every day they put on the uniform. They remind Montanans of the sacrifices being made by law enforcement officers that often go unnoticed to keep our community safe. I’d like to send a very personal message of support to Trooper Johnson and his entire family and the law enforcement officers here tonight and those across our entire state.

“Thank you for your selfless commitment to serve and protect the citizens of Montana. Thank you for keeping our community safe,” he said.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help with expenses. As of Sunday, $187,873 of a $300,000 goal has been raised. To donate visit

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