MISSOULA – Gary Fuller, a Special Olympics athlete and ambassador for the organization, was assaulted with a baseball bat in Missoula.
Fuller is reported to be in critical condition, but the nature of his injuries has not been disclosed.
Authorities have identified the suspect as Paul Ekstedt.
Family members tell us that Fuller was at a friend’s house Thursday night when the assailant suddenly grabbed an aluminum baseball bat and slammed him over the head with it. Gary was taken to the hospital in critical condition, and his father says they performed emergency surgery Thursday night.
At first the family wasn’t “given much hope," but word is there’s some improvement Friday afternoon as Gary regained consciousness and doctors removed his ventilator.
He is recognizing voices and responding to the nurses.
Fuller is one of the most well-known of Special Olympics athletes in western Montana. He’s been a Global Messenger for the games, serves on the Board for Special Olympics, and is a frequent competitor in the Summer and Winter games, appreciated for not only his efforts as a competitor, but his enthusiasm and support for the other athletes and his friends.
Gary has also been a regular participant in the Law Enforcement Torch Run that supports the games and is friends with officers around the area.
There is no word on a possible motive for the attack.
According to the jail roster in Missoula County, Ekstedt is facing one felony charge of assault with a weapon, and one misdemeanor charge of obstructing justice. He is scheduled to make his initial court appearance on Monday.
According to the Montana Department of Corrections, Ekstedt has a felony conviction in Lincoln County on a charge of criminal endangerment in 2014. He received a three-year deferred sentence in that case.