Cheryl Boullester says the man accused of shooting at Lakewood Police officers during a dispute this week isn't the man authorities have portrayed him to be.
Thomas Oyen, 28, served nearly 10 years in the Army and suffered severe injuries that left him with metal rods in his spine and arms, she said. He suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He was assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord before being honorably discharged in November 2012.
Oyen was frustrated with the Veterans Administration, which had recently reduced his monthly paycheck to $400 a month. Coupled with the $33 unemployment check from the state, he was making $433 a month, $17 short of his monthly rent.
Whether it was seizures or nightmares from his time in combat, the Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient has been in pain for years, says Boullester, his girlfriend of more than two years.
"The poor man couldn’t get any help," Boullester said of Oyen. "He needs a lot of surgery done, and the VA won’t even look at him."
"They took him off everything," she added, referring to his VA-prescribed medications, "and they expect him to be OK."
On Monday, the pain and frustration came to a boil after Oyen and his friend, his "battle buddy," got into a yelling match at a home on 146th Street Southwest over "something stupid," said Boullester. She couldn't recall exactly what the two had fought about.
She remembered this: Oyen was drunk.
Shortly after midnight, Lakewood Police officers went to the Woodbrook neighborhood after receiving reports of gunfire. Dispatchers said there had been a domestic violence-related 911 call coming from a house in the neighborhood and a woman was leaving with a child.
When the officers arrived at the scene, gunshots erupted from a mobile home on the same property as the house. Officers took cover behind their cars and nearby trees. They could hear bullets buzz past them, authorities say.
The Pierce County Prosecutor's Office contends that soon after the shots were fired, Oyen's girlfriend - Boullester - approached police and told them she was the woman who had fled earlier and that Oyen was armed with a Glock 9mm pistol.
Authorities say that while she was talking with police, Oyen called Boullester and told her that he "shot at the pigs" because of her. Several more gunshots came from the trailer while officers took up positions around the house.
But on Tuesday, Boullester told Patch that Oyen never called her, nor did he speak with her during the standoff. Instead, it was her ex-husband, who was at the scene, who spoke to Oyen on the phone.
"If he said, 'I’m gonna shoot at the pigs,' it wasn’t with me on the phone," she said. "And it's just not Tom."
Whatever the case, authorities say Oyen emerged from the house. Although he threw his gun on the grass, he still wasn't cooperating with officers, so they shot him with bean bags.
On Tuesday, Oyen was charged with first-degree assault in Pierce County Superior Court. His bail was set at $500,000.
That same day, Boullester contacted Patch to share Oyen's side of the story. The father of four is a good man who isn't out to harm police officers, she said. In fact, as an ex-soldier, he respected them.
"What happened here was a mixture of pain, anger, sadness and frustration," she said. "All he wanted to is become normal again."