COVINGTON, LA (WVUE) - A St. Tammany deputy shot in the line of duty Easter morning is speaking out about his ordeal in his first television interview.
Deputy Justin Nail is still carrying the bullet that lodged in his hip after a chase and fatal shootout that occurred just before he got off his shift.
The wild chase ended just west of Covington. Nail was involved in a car chase with a car burglary suspect, and he said it was either him or me.
"I do know I was shot by him, and I had to do what I needed to do to save my life," said Nail.
It's been less than one month since the 11-year veteran deputy was struck by three bullets.
"The pain in my hips is off and on. If it's not hurting I can walk about an hour," he said.
Two of the bullets were deflected and caused minor damage, but a third lodged in his hip, sending him to the intensive care unit.
"Besides all the regret and all the things I would have done differently, I was thinking about my wife," Nail said.
"I was outside because I was awake waiting for him to come home, and I heard the pursuit," Jessica Nail said.
After about 20 minutes, the chase went silent and Jessica got a visit no deputy's wife wants.
"They told me he had been shot, but they didn't know how bad," she said.
As Jessica Nail rushed to the hospital to join her husband, word came out that car burglary suspect, 24-year-old Joseph Johnson, was dead at the scene. He had been struck 14 times by bullets from the responding deputies.
Nail was rushed to the hospital after fellow deputies packed his wound to stop the bleeding. Doctors removed six inches of his intestines and repaired the wound with 40 staples.
"I just stayed awake until the surgery. If I didn't, I was worried I wouldn't wake up," Nail said.
Nail, who served in two major campaigns in the Navy, knows the encounter could have ended differently.
"It's not just a slogan. You never know when you might not come home. I don't take that for granted," he said.
Nail said he can't wait to eventually get back to work. He also said he now knows more than ever how vital his bulletproof vest is. Nail was wearing his vest the morning of the shooting, and said he wears it whenever he is on duty.
The recovering deputy is also a part-time mechanic who is not able to supplement his income while he recovers. Friends are hosting a benefit for him at T-Rivers in Madisonville on May 20.