BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - The Brevard County deputy who was shot three times during a gunbattle with a man involved in a neighborhood dispute about feral cats has been upbeat and in good spirits as he recovers.
Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey spoke outside Holmes Regional Medical Center, where Deputy Paul Phillips has been receiving treatment since the shooting Tuesday night.
Doctors say he was shot in the left leg, causing extensive damage and several broken bones, as well as in his right femur and in his right shoulder. It'll require more surgeries and physical therapy, but medical professionals are certain Phillips will make a full recovery.
"The doctors are very confident that he will recover and he's got a long road to go for him and his family, but everything, the prognosis is extremely good for him to fully recover and come back to work," Ivey said.
Phillips, 35, spent 14 years in the U.S. Army, serving two tours in Iraq before retiring as a staff sergeant. He's been a patrol deputy since November 2018. Ivey said Phillips' training through the Army and BCSO likely helped him survive the shooting.
"Deputy Phillips, in my opinion, is an amazing hero. He not only dealt with the suspect, a very violent individual who shot at him multiple times, but also his actions not only saved his own life, but I believe saved the lives of others that would be responding to this scene and potentially neighbors because this individual had evil is his heart to harm somebody," Ivey said.
The suspect, who was identified Thursday afternoon as 45-year-old Erik Gebauer, died in the shooting, according to authorities. He had a criminal history that includes charges of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, fleeing and eluding, resisting an officer without violence, burglary, stalking and aggravated battery.
Deputies said Phillips went to Avenida De La Vista in Indiatlantic around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday because Gebauer was arguing with a neighbor about feral cats in the area. Ivey said Phillips tried to deescalate the situation but Gebauer became more and more irate until he armed himself with a rifle and opened fire.
"What he did out there to be shot three times, to endure that, still focus on the individual, be able to eradicate and eliminate the individual, I just couldn't be more proud of him," Ivey said.
Ivey also applauded the actions of a neighbor who saw Phillips exposed during the gunbattle and pulled him to an area where he could have some cover from the bullets. Ivey plans to personally thank that neighbor for the heroic act.
One of the first things Phillips said to Ivey when he went to visit the hospital was, "I won," and his mentality since then hasn't changed.
"He has an 'I'm gonna win' mentality. He has an 'I'm going home safe every day to my family' mentality and I believe that's a big reason why he's alive, because he refused to do anything but win," Ivey said.
There's no timeline on when Phillips will be released from the hospital. In the meantime, his wife and family have been by his side and he's received an outpouring of support from the community.
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