A man who authorities say was in the "wrong place at the wrong time" during a deadly Colorado Springs gunbattle fears he may never walk again.
Thomas Villanueva was headed home after grabbing something to eat across from the Murray Hill Apartments on Monday afternoon when he unknowingly wandered into harm's way and was wounded in the gunfire that killed an El Paso County sheriff's deputy.
"As soon as I got shot I tried to run, but fell cause I couldn't feel my legs," he wrote on Facebook Messenger to his friend and neighbor Diondre Dunn. "At this time the doctors don't know if I'm going to walk again. I can still feel my arms and my upper chest. Everything lower then that, I'm paralized (sic)."
Villanueva said he had just reached the parking lot off Murray Boulevard when he saw what he described as three undercover officers on his left and five on his right - "I just felt they were undercover cause (they) were throwing signals at each other," he wrote.
"They glanced at me for a sec, still walking alongside me, then this guy comes out of (nowhere) and sees me first. He shoots me, barely missing my spinal cord."
He hinted at the struggle that law enforcement said ensued before Deputy Micah Flick was killed and Deputy Scott Stone, Sgt. Jacob Abendschan and Colorado Springs police detective Marcus Yanez were injured.
"Right when I got shot, I saw on my left that there were two people fighting over a gun," Villanueva wrote.
Sheriff Bill Elder on Tuesday described Villanueva as an "innocent bystander" caught in the "wrong place at the wrong time."
He remains in the hospital and is expected to have surgery on his spinal cord Thursday, his sister, Selina Dubbel said on the family's behalf. She declined to say whether he is paralyzed.
"We are honestly in straight shock, and it's definitely been emotional for us, especially for my brother, Thomas," Dubbel said. "It's sad these days we can't even walk out of the comfort of our home."
A GoFundMe account set up by Villanueva's friends and verified by his family said the bullet entered his left shoulder, passed through his spinal cord and exited through his left lung.
"Its a terrible shame that people lost their lives in such a needless act of violence, but a young man like Thomas to be immobilized at 27 is an equal tragedy," the GoFundMe page said. Public records show Villanueva is 28.
Villanueva's family echoed those sentiments Wednesday, saying, "We are deeply sad that someone who didn't deserve this has to go through this. Thomas always holds his hand out to anyone in need. We are extremely grateful that he is alive and we are asking for everyone to pray because honestly we have a long road ahead of us.
"Thomas is very strong and realizes that God is on his side," Dubbel said.
Dunn said he'd been Villanueva's neighbor for about a year, the two bonding over Xbox games and cartoons. Villanueva loved "South Park" and "Dragon Ball Z."
"He was a chill dude. Super friendly," Dunn said, further proving it with Villanueva's Instagram name: "Kooldudeya."
"There's no way you can portray this dude as anything else than he is," Dunn said.
Contact Kaitlin Durbin: 636-0362