Vancouver's Alicia Nilo is facing a long road to recovery after being struck in the hip by a seemingly random bullet on Oct. 21 while running along the Padden Parkway Trail.
Her recovery will take months, if not longer, her mother, Jessie Nilo, said, adding that her daughter hopes she can run again within the next year or two.
"Everything has been so nonlinear in her recovery so far. She has really bad days and good days," Jessie Nilo said, speaking on her daughter's behalf. "It's just more obstacles she will have to overcome herself. But she will, because she's just that kind of person."
The 26-year-old was coming off the Bridge of the Gods half marathon in August and training for the Columbia Gorge half marathon that was just three days away.
"She was so elated. She was running all of the time," her mother said.
Alicia Nilo lives off the Padden Parkway Trail and frequently runs on it. That afternoon, around 4 p.m., she was about a half-mile from home when she felt a sharp pain in her left hip. She looked down and saw a hole in her clothing and blood. She immediately took cover, her mother said, because she wasn't sure if there was an active shooter or if she was being targeted.
"It was pretty scary, but she stayed pretty calm," Jessie Nilo said.
The Washington State Patrol was the first to respond.
A trooper had just pulled over someone for speeding, Jessie Nilo said, so her daughter limped over to the patrol car and said, "I think I've been shot." She was still scanning the bushes and trees for the shooter.
"It was all very mysterious, scary and sudden," her mother said.
The trooper laid her down in the ditch to start rendering aid. Another driver, a nurse, saw this happening and stopped to help, Jessie Nilo said.
An ambulance arrived quickly and took Alicia Nilo to a local hospital, where she had X-rays done. Jessie Nilo said an MRI couldn't be done because of the fragments of metal in her daughter's hip. Doctors couldn't retrieve the deeply lodged bullet.
Jessie Nilo said the bullet damaged nerves and muscle but missed Alicia Nilo's spinal column and vital organs.
She said the family is feeling "gratitude, bewilderment, anger" and "so much frustration."
"I wish she had some kind of recourse in holding the person responsible for what they've done. They've damaged her for many months. She obviously had to miss the marathon that she was training for for many months," Jessie Nilo said, "but it will be quite some time before she can walk again, let alone run."
There's also the public safety concern.
"Whether they have any idea or not of the damage they've caused with this gunshot, they're still out there. We don't know who it was or what the circumstance was," Jessie Nilo said.
"I hope people realize the effects they have on the community when they are not vigilant about gun safety. We have a lot of freedom in this country, and we need to take it very seriously," she added.
No suspect information
The Clark County Sheriff's Office's Tactical Detectives Unit is investigating the shooting. At this time, authorities believe it was random and committed by someone driving by; there is no suspect information, sheriff's Sgt. Brent Waddell said earlier this month. Investigators are chasing down surveillance video from the area.
Alicia Nilo is undergoing physical therapy, her mother said. She has to work on exercises that span about 12 hours every day, interspersed throughout the day. She is unable to work in person — instead, she participates in a lot of virtual meetings, which are tough because she can't sit up for more than a couple of minutes. She spends much of the day lying on her stomach, according to Jessie Nilo.
"Alicia is so positive. She is really a grab-life-by-the-horns person, so being slowed down in this way has been hard for her emotionally and mentally," her mother said.
Alicia Nilo is involved with arts commissions for the city of Vancouver and Clark County and several nonprofit arts organizations. She is also working on getting a master's degree online in nonprofit administration. Her mother said she wants to serve underserved populations and introduce arts where there is limited access.
"She's very passionate about caring for communities, so this was really jarring for our whole family," Jessie Nilo said.
Alicia Nilo is getting around "at a turtle's pace" with a walker, her mother said. Her sister has moved in to help her around the clock, along with Jessie's husband, Sam Nilo.
Alicia's parents also recently traveled from Boise, Idaho, to bring her a motorized wheelchair so she can get back out on the trail — "instead of a stroll, a roll around the neighborhood. It helps her spirits a lot," Jessie Nilo said.
To donate toward Alicia Nilo's recovery, visit https://gofund.me/361350a0.