For years, his family had suspected that Ethan was dead with varying stories being made in regards to his "death" such as one where he had drowned while fishing in Alaska.
Upon emerging from a bar, Ethan and his friend Corporal Kelvin Taylor were both assaulted in an alley. The attack left Taylor dead while Ethan was left injured and fell into a coma as a result.
NCIS Medical Examiner, Doctor Donald Mallard later revealed that Ethan had undergone brain surgery to relive some pressure on his brain and that the doctors treating Ethan were also keeping the Corporal in a drug-induced coma until the swelling subsided.
The attack prompted NCIS to be called in to investigate and eventually led the team to Stillwater, Ethan's hometown which also happened to be the hometown of NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs.