The 45-year-old father of nine sat bleeding on the floor with bullets in his shoulder, vertebrae and lungs, waiting for paramedics to arrive and while police chased the shooter. Five hours later, he was at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, where doctors told him he'd be paralyzed.
But he's glad to be alive.
"I think it's a miracle that he lived," said Armstrong's sister-in-law Kristin Beckstead. "All the care staff, all the doctors, it's all brought them to tears. They couldn't believe that someone would do this to someone else, with no provocation. There was no good reason for this to happen."
Jasson D. Hines, 24, Las Vegas, the son of the man who was renting the cabin, is accused of shooting Armstrong. Hines was charged Wednesday with attempted murder with injury by Garfield County Attorney Barry Huntington.
Fourteen other charges include attempted murder, attempted kidnapping, attempted theft, criminal mischief, four counts of assault against a peace officer, purchase or possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, possession or use of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, interference with an arresting officer, driving with a controlled substance in the body and making a terroristic threat four felonies and 11 misdemeanors, according to charging documents faxed to the Deseret Morning News Wednesday from Huntington.
Hines and his father went to rent one of Armstrong's six cabins at the Blue Springs Lodge Friday evening a few miles outside of Panguitch. Hines' father went into the office first and arranged the details. Jasson Hines walked in minutes later, saying he "wanted to kill someone" and started firing, said Armstrong's sister-in-law Robyn Wilson.
Beckstead said police told her the shooter's father picked up a piece of wood and tried to smack the gun out of his son's hands.
"(The father) was trying to stop his son, trying to take care of Tracy," Beckstead said. "I know their family has been destroyed by this. I feel so sorry for his family. It's ruined two family's lives."
Meanwhile, Armstrong's 16-year-old son had run out with a cordless phone to call 911. As paramedics rushed to the lodge, wife Lynn Armstrong heard the sirens go past her house and called to check on her son. She didn't know Tracy Armstrong was there, too.
"She got the message that Tracy had been shot and heard him saying he wasn't going to live, to call Life Flight and that he loved her," Beckstead said.
Lynn Armstrong rushed out of the house in her pajamas aand arrived at the lodge 20 minutes later as paramedics were preparing Tracy Armstrong for the flight to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center via medical helicopter.
"I can't imagine what this is going to take for her to care for him for the rest of his life," Beckstead said. "But she doesn't care as long as she has him. His family is so glad he's here; they'll take him however they can get him."
The worries keep mounting, however. The Armstrongs live in Panguitch, a three-hour drive from Provo, and Lynn can only stay in the hospital's guest cottage until Sunday.
The kids are at home with grandma, but she can't stay there for two months the minimum time doctors think Tracy will be in the hospital.
So family members are rushing to find an apartment they can lease for two months for Lynn, but they're striking out, Beckstead said.
Huge bills are also looming, not just for the medical care now but for a wheelchair, home remodeling and future medical costs. And Tracy, the former breadwinner, will probably never work again.
Family members have set up a trust fund through Zions Bank, and donations can be made in Tracy Armstrong's name at any branch.
The Armstrongs have nine children two 3-year-olds, two 6-year-olds, and children ages 8, 14, 16, 20 and 22.
"I think (Tracy's) struggling with being a burden on his family," Beckstead said. "He's trying to do everything that he can (in rehab). If they tell him he needs to do something, he's all over it."
The Armstrongs are grateful for the community support and have chosen not to be bitter, family members say.
"They don't want anybody being vengeful," Wilson said. "It was just somebody ... who wasn't quite all there. (He) obviously had some mental problems to be able to do something like that."
And Beckstead said they are encouraged by Tracy's good attitude.
"The only thing I've ever heard him say to his kids is 'We don't understand why, we don't have to understand why today,'" she said of his comments. "'We just live our lives and work on getting better.'"
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