Tragedy can bring out the best in people.
Navarone “Rone” Katzer, 37, is a well-known businessman from Chewelah, Wash. The popular owner of Red Line Finishing, an auto body paint and repair shop, has been in a medically induced coma since he was severely beaten outside a restaurant in Seattle after a Seahawks football game Jan. 8.
“Right now, it’s like he’s just fighting for his life,” said his sister, IngaTara Perry, 33. “He’s just fighting to live.”
His community has responded with an outpouring of generosity.
Police responded to Second Avenue and James Street in downtown Seattle and found Katzer unresponsive on the ground. A witness told police one of the assailants punched Katzer in the face and another kicked him while he was down. They fled the scene but returned shortly after, police said.
Rolland M. Jackson, 44, of Seattle, and Wallace R. Outwater, 43, of Anchorage, Alaska, were arrested in connection with the crime and booked into King County Jail for investigation of assault. The case is being investigated by the Seattle Police Department and charges have not been filed, police said.
Katzer suffered head injuries that caused his brain to swell. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center, where he remains in critical but stable condition. He also is battling acute respiratory distress syndrome, which can be caused by severe trauma and results in a buildup of fluid in the lungs. Only about half of those diagnosed with the syndrome survive.
Katzer’s family is confident he’ll pull through.
“I believe 100 percent that he’s going to have a full recovery,” Perry said. “I refuse to believe any different.”
Doctors haven’t given the family an anticipated release date, but Katzer makes small improvements each day, his sister said.
“It’s going to be a long road.”
It seems the entire town of Chewelah is rallying behind Katzer. The guestbook on a blog tracking his recovery had been signed more than 900 times by friends and family as of Wednesday evening. The blog has had nearly 12,000 visits. Many have also made donations.
“It’s just amazing, the support from the town,” Perry said. “It never stops. The generosity and the thoughtfulness is unbelievable.”
One family friend brought four cords of firewood to his home, where his mother is caring for the single father’s four children. Another brought kid-friendly meals. Many have sent the family gift cards for food.
A longtime family friend, Kevin Herda, 33, gave the family his frequent flier miles so they could travel back and forth from home to the hospital.
“I consider him family, so it’s really important for me and all of us to be by his side, whatever it takes,” Herda said.
Katzer’s brother, Shalako Katzer, 35, used all his vacation time staying in the hospital, so his co-workers at Avista donated some of their own vacation days to him.
“That alleviated a lot of pressure,” Perry said. “He was there the night it happened to Rone, and he’s going to be there the night (Rone) walks out.”
Shalako Katzer has only left the hospital for one day, to fly home for his 9-year-old’s birthday.
At least one family member has been at Katzer’s side at all times since he was hospitalized. His father and five siblings have been rotating shifts.
Much of the time, though, his hospital room is packed with several friends and family members.
“Everyone has had their part in helping,” Perry said. “It’s been a real balancing act.”
Brother Cody Katzer, 31, and his wife, who is seven months pregnant, drove from Kalispell, Mont., to be with him and didn’t leave for the next four days.
His dad, Paul Katzer, 58, put his own life on hold and spent a day and a half driving to Seattle from Arizona. He doesn’t plan to leave the hospital until his son does.
His children – Bode, 4, Kruz, 6, Aspen, 11, and Sydnie, 15 – have been traveling to Seattle on weekends.
“They’re hanging in there,” Perry said. “All they want to do is be there.”
Katzer’s friends and family describe him as friendly, tough, a prankster, a hard worker, a successful businessman and a devoted dad.
“Everyone that knows him loves him,” Herda said. “He’s just that type of guy. When people come into his shop, he treats them like he’s known them forever. He’s just a really good person.”
“It’s his turn to be on the receiving end.”