Undersheriff Shot On Thanksgiving Last Year Spends This Holiday With Family

Travis Painter was well enough to go to his parents' home for a Thanksgiving meal on Thursday, a far cry from the hospital room in which he spent his last Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 23rd 2023, 11:02 pm

By: Chris Yu


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An undersheriff shot in the line of duty on Thanksgiving last year is spending this Thanksgiving with family and looking forward to returning to work soon.

"Compared to a year ago where I couldn't do anything for myself at all, now, I can pretty much do everything myself," said Harper County Undersheriff Travis Painter.

He and other deputies responded to Walnut Drive in Buffalo on Nov. 24, 2022, because a man with a shotgun was trying to enter a building, said the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The suspect walked away, but the deputies later encountered him at a nearby intersection, the OSBI said. The gunman then opened fire on the deputies, hitting Painter. The deputies returned fire, killing the gunman, said the OSBI.

Both of Travis Painter's legs were hit, said his father, Tommy Painter. Doctors had to remove multiple bone fragments from his right leg and used pins, plates and screws to repair it. But his left leg fared much worse: a roughly 5-inch section of the leg's artery was destroyed. Because of the weather conditions that morning, Travis Painter could not be airlifted, resulting in his lower left leg not getting a blood supply for about 11 hours, his father said. 

But thanks to a series of successful surgeries at OU Medical Center, Travis Painter's legs were saved.

"They brought up amputation several times through the course of this year. But I just keep catching all the breaks and it looks like I'll have pretty good mobility," Travis Painter said.

Tommy Painter said his son has had 12 surgeries so far, and his final procedure - a left knee replacement - will take place either at the end of November or early December.

"He just doesn't know the word, 'quit.' He just digs his heels in and goes at it again," said Tommy Painter.

In the meantime, Travis Painter remains on crutches. But he said his mobility has been improving.

"Got a lot easier once I was able to see an end in sight," Travis Painter said of his recovery. "There for a while, there was just no end in sight."

While the recovery journey has been difficult, Travis Painter credited his two daughters for making things more manageable.

"For a while, I couldn't get anything for myself so they kind of had to become nurses in their own right, so to speak," he said.

Travis Painter also credits the community for its support along the way.

"If it wasn't for this community and how much they have helped, I would be in big trouble," said Travis Painter. "Everything from when I was in the hospital and the whole community taking care of my family, helping me financially."

Finances have been a major issue because Travis Painter said he has not been getting workers' compensation payments on a steady basis. Tommy Painter said surgeries were delayed as a result.

Despite those setbacks, Travis Painter was well enough to go to his parents' home for a Thanksgiving meal on Thursday, a far cry from the hospital room in which he spent his last Thanksgiving.

"This year is so much better than last year," said Tommy Painter. "Not getting that horrible phone call that early in the morning and knowing that Travis is okay and that he'll soon be back on his feet again, it's a wonderful Thanksgiving this year."

Travis Painter said after his last surgery, he expects to undergo a few weeks of rehabilitation and physical therapy. He hopes to return to work at the Harper County Sheriff's Office around mid-December.

When asked what will be the first thing he'll do once he gets back to his office, Travis Painter said he won't be sitting down.

"I'm going to be walking everywhere for a while just because I can," he said.

Over the summer, Travis Painter received a Medal of Valor and a Purple Heart for responding to the call about the gunman. Two other deputies received Medals of Valor as well.

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