GEORGETOWN, Ky. (LEX 18) — Three years after a friendly-fire shooting that left him paralyzed, former Scott County sheriff’s deputy Jaime Morales feels stuck and wants to move forward.
On Sept. 11, 2018, Morales was shot in the back by a police officer as a joint team of police and deputies responded to a report of a suspected serial bank robber parked at a Scott County rest stop off Interstate 75.
Now, Morales says he’s dealing with trying to get an accessible home, manage an ongoing lawsuit with the city and deal with persistent physical pain.
“I just feel like I have a lot of pressure, weight on my shoulders, I need to get some off,” Morales said.
‘Everybody just seemed to disappear'
In the first days and months after Morales’ injury, he was flooded with support. But that faded over time.
“The first year was like everybody wouldn't leave me alone, everybody wanted to hang out, you know, then a year later, maybe not even two, everybody just seemed to disappear,” Morales said.
Morales remains “extremely thankful” for all of the help and donations given early on after his injury, saying that it’s allowed him to get by for the last three years.
But one of the promises made to Morales early on has not yet come to pass.
Initial plans to build an accessible house for Morales fell through, and he is now working with an anonymous donor who is helping to move forward on provided land in Stamping Ground.
“The problem we ran into now is because it has been so long since the house was promised to get built that a lot of people have backed out of the project,” Morales said. “So we're trying to get people to hopefully come back and help me build the house of my dreams, the house I need.”
A GoFundMe has been set up for Morales to help pay for the building of the house.
“I just want people to know that we are building this house finally, and I will need help, need all the help we can get,” Morales said.
Ongoing legal battle
In September of 2019, Morales filed a lawsuit against the city of Georgetown and the police department that accused them of failing to adequately train the officers who responded to the call that ended in his shooting.
Morales and other deputies with the Scott County Sheriff’s Office were part of a joint response with the police department to the call from a U.S. Marshal about the robbery suspect, but the deputies were given little in the way of a plan by Georgetown police before the responders surrounded the suspect’s vehicle, the lawsuit alleges.
The suspect, Edward Reynolds, was shot and killed during the response. He never fired a shot, but the responding deputies and officers reported that he reached for a gun from the console of the car he was in.
In February of 2020, the city, a police officer and a lieutenant named as defendants in the initial lawsuit filed a counter complaint against Reynolds’ estate. The counter suit alleged that it was Reynolds’ actions, not those of the city or its officers, that led to Morales’ injuries.
In another third party complaint, the city accused three Scott County sheriff’s deputies and the Scott County Sheriff’s Office of being negligent in the response, specifically accusing the deputies of failing to listen to the tactical plan and the sheriff’s office of failing to use care in selecting supervising members of the joint team that responded to the incident on Sept. 11, 2018.
The lawsuit was initially set to go to trial on Aug. 16 of this year, but trial was rescheduled for July 18, 2022.
Morales said he hopes for a settlement in the lawsuit.
“I feel like when we are out there putting ourselves in danger and obviously paying the ultimate sacrifice, we expect someone to be there for us, we expect someone to be there backing us up,” Morales said. “In a situation like this it was blue on blue, it’s pretty cut and dry I just can't believe they wouldn't want to do this sooner.”
Continuing pain and frustration
In the years since the shooting, Morales said he’s endured ongoing pain from his injury.
“Living in this much pain every single day for three years really does weigh on you … essentially it's just tingling and burning and aching of anything below the injury level,” Morales said.
Morales recently went through a surgery to implant an electrical stimulator in an effort to relieve some of the nerve pain and spasms that have caused him difficulty sleeping and dealing with everyday tasks.
“I went to the length of risking my arms just to get rid of it because there are no more options there for me,” Morales said.
Morales is already on every medication he can take to mitigate the pain, so he opted for the risky surgery. But the surgery provided very little relief and he will likely need another.
In the years since his injury, Morales has seen ups and downs. One of his biggest frustrations is being unable to physically complete tasks he would otherwise be able to do.
“Knowing how to do something, for example, I know how to work on cars and bikes and things like that, but now because I'm confined to a chair I’m no longer able to do those things,” Morales said. “Or even just hooking up my Xbox, I'm able to do it in a flash but then I have to tell somebody that's never done it before how to do it — that's extremely frustrating.”
‘I still continue to serve’
Despite everything that happened, Morales doesn’t regret being a sheriff’s deputy.
“I have no regret being a marine or being a police officer,” Morales said. “Even now that I'm injured I still continue to serve.”
Morales started a TikTok account where he shares his experiences, and he’s built up more than 20 thousand followers, some of whom are also wheelchair-bound.
In his TikToks, Morales walks viewers through information about his injury, and how he lives with it.
Hearing from others who say that Morales has inspired them keeps him going, he said.
Ultimately, he hopes to end up with an accessible house that he can live in from now on.
“I just want to be able to live my life pain free, comfortable and at peace,” Morales said. “That's all I want.”