Gripping a cup of coffee and taking careful sips, 64-year-old Michael Troy wears a smile so wide it’s hard to tell that three months ago he was fighting for his life on an operating table.
The first bullet fired from a shooter’s gun went through his left temple and came out his right eye, taking parts of his brain with it. The second one punctured a large hole on the right side of his neck. He doesn’t remember a thing.
What he does recall is pieced together mostly from what people tell him: how the shooter shot him first, then turned a gun on his boss and good friend Danette Kane, killing her feet from her front door. Or, how he laid bleeding on the cold pavement while people came to help. How close he was to death and how, against the odds, doctors saved enough of his brain to keep him alive.
He does know first-hand what it’s like to wake up from a coma. But rather than see light and color when he tried opening his eyes, all he saw was black – a deep, dark kind of hue those who see can only imagine.
“I remember thinking, ‘What just happened?’ ” Troy said. “And then people told me that I had been the victim of a random shooting.”
Troy and Kane were shot Dec. 19 outside of the Westview Manor apartment complex on the lower South Hill at 10th Avenue and Cannon Street where Troy was a manager and Kane an owner. The alleged shooter, Anne Carpenter, was arrested after a dayslong police search and is awaiting mental health evaluations before her next court hearing.
On Tuesday morning, Troy was guided into a private and well-furnished dining room by his older brother, Gene Troy, at Royal Park Rehabilitation Center in north Spokane for a sit-down interview. For the past few weeks, the center has been home as he works with a team of specialists through therapy, including physical, speech and the occupational.
He walks slowly with a cane and often with the help of others, but he walks. His right eye is gone, replaced with an artificial eye. His remaining eye is hidden behind a closed lid. Doctors tell him there’s a possibility he could regain vision one day, but they’re not hopeful.
He also talks. Often about his philosophies on life or society, his political disagreements with his brother – he, a left-leaning city dweller who looks back fondly on 1967 and the “Summer of Love.” His brother, a conservative who supports President Donald Trump.
Get them in a room together, though, and it’s like they’re both cut from the same black-comedy cloth. They call themselves the “Troy Boys,” and they don’t hold back on poking fun at Michael’s new disability. Whether it’s the story of the time Gene led Michael into a branch on a recent walk, or how they’re trying out a goatee on Michael’s chin after decades of no facial hair.
For them and especially Michael, it’s a way to stay ahead of the heavy emotions that typically follow tragedies like these.
“If you put yourself into a negative, depressed way of thinking, it counters everything you do,” Michael said Tuesday. “So the job is, when you’ve been injured, broken, crushed and kicked in the side, you need to find what’s left that’s good. You need to take the energy toward that direction.”
It’s also brothers being brothers during a tough time, of which they’ve had plenty. They’ve made it through four dads growing up – the third of whom Gene “kicked out of the house” himself. Both siblings were drafted into the military, though only Gene served. Michael survived a heart attack years back.
And then there’s the good. Both worked as cabbies one summer, trawling the Spokane streets from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. They’ve both traveled the world and worked myriad jobs, including teaching at high schools and dealing blackjack – a job Michael had and loved at Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights before he was shot.
Now, they’re here. And they’re together.
“It’s getting better,” Michael said. “I’m progressing and getting better daily. And I think there’s a big future of recovery in my life. That’s the beautiful thing.”
Of his attacker, Michael doesn’t think much about her. He didn’t know the suspect before the shooting.
One of the theoretical motives posited by police is that Carpenter, who also worked part time at The Spokesman-Review placing inserts into newspapers, shot the two because she was upset her father, who still lives in the complex, was facing eviction.
“It was just a Tuesday,” he said, not really knowing if it was a case of “wrong place, wrong time” or if he confronted her outside of his home. “Her father lived there, and he was a problem at times, but it was just a Tuesday.”
On Jan. 30, and again on Feb. 6, Carpenter was scheduled to be arraigned. Those hearings have been delayed while she undergoes a mental competency evaluation.
Later this week, Michael is scheduled to be discharged from rehab, when he’ll move into his brother’s home in the Indian Trail neighborhood. Later, he plans to move into an apartment nearby.
Since the shooting, he’s received an outpouring of support from friends, family and the community. He’s reconnected with old girlfriends living across the state, and buddies he hasn’t spoken to since the 1970s. Plenty of people have donated to his Go Fund Me campaign aimed at helping him pay for the costs of his disability.
He doesn’t dwell on the past, the “what ifs” or look at his injuries negatively – even if adjusting to being blind has been “incredibly hard.” Instead, he’d like to see Carpenter get the help she needs.
“I guess the tragedy is there are people in our society who are emotionally ill or mentally ill, and they’ll make an action like this, thinking that somehow it will help the situation,” he said. “And we have quite a few people in her situation, that probably should be under medical help. But they don’t get it for whatever reason.”
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