ORANGE PARK, Fla. – A convenience store clerk who was shot twice in the head on Jan. 4 survived the shooting and is making a miraculous recovery, officials said.
According to police, Richard “Sligh” Tucker, 53, was shot by 31-year-old ex-convict Martinis Williams while working at Bill’s Food Store on Confederate Point Road.
Police said Williams ran from the store but that a good witness description allowed officers to capture him a short distance away, near a police substation.
Now, with two bullets lodged in his brain, Tucker, a former science teacher and radio personality, has to relearn how to walk, talk and do simple math. Doctors said the bullets were left in Tucker's head because it's too dangerous to remove them.
Tucker was listed in critical condition when rescue personnel rushed him to Orange Park Medical Center after the shooting, which Tucker doesn't remember.
“I really don't have memory of what happened. I know what I've been told (about) what happened, but I don't, I don't remember anything of the incident,” Tucker said. “The last thing that I remember was going kayaking a couple of weeks ago out at Huguenot Park.”
After three weeks of rehabilitation at OPMC, Tucker can hold a conversation, go shopping at the hospital gift shop and has begun to piece together the memory of his life before he was shot, doctors said.
"I feel that I will find a way to put it in the past, and I am definitely determined, even now, without a full grasp of everything, I am determined to not have it be something that has a bearing on how I feel about people," Tucker said.
Tucker’s physician, Dr. Travis Randall Von Tobel, said the fact that Tucker survived the shooting and how far he’s come in his recovery are both nothing short of a miracle.
“I've been a doctor for almost 13 years now, and I have never seen a man function as well after that kind of injury,” Von Tobel said.
Tucker is out of the Intensive Care Unit and is getting better every day at OPMC’s new acute rehab center, where he learned to walk and talk again.
“It has been a remarkable recovery to see him progress so quickly,” Von Tobel said. “He's got a long road ahead but, he's got the right attitude.”
Tucker’s short-term goal is to go home and play with his three dogs. His long-term goal is to get back into a kayak and return to enjoying nature again.
“I'm all on board with putting this behind me and getting back to kayaking,” Tucker said. “Whenever they're going to let me do that. But I am looking forward to it. I can tell you that!”
Tucker said he wants to share his recovery story to help inspire others with traumatic brain injuries never to give up hope.
To assist Tucker with his medical expenses, OPMC is providing all rehabilitation services at no charge. Because Tucker is out of work, a friend has also set up a GoFundMe account for him to help cover other expenses.
Williams has been charged with attempted murder, armed robbery and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, police said.
Williams was expected to appear in court Jan. 26, but his arraignment was passed to Feb. 7. He remains in jail without bond.