Local News

Sheriff: Harnett County deputy shot in face moved from ICU, still needs multiple surgeries

Posted April 18, 2018 8:54 a.m. EDT

— A Harnett County sheriff's deputy who was shot in the face over the weekend was moved out of the ICU but still has multiple surgeries ahead, the sheriff said Wednesday.

Cpl. Eric Cook was shot in the face Saturday by a teenager who was reported missing a day earlier. Cook found the teen near H.m. Cagle Drive in Cameron.

"The suspect pushed him, and the next thing you know, he said he heard a gunshot and then the stinging in the face," Sheriff Wayne Coats said Monday. "The good Lord was guiding that bullet through this young man’s face, because it could have easily hit a tooth and ricocheted and went up through his brain. He is just a very lucky man."

Cook, 36, also was shot in the chest, but his protective vest stopped that bullet, the sheriff said. The deputy was able to get off a couple shots of his own during the incident, but he didn't hit the teen suspect.

The suspect, Mario Alexander Garza III, 16, made his first court appearance on Monday morning on charges of attempted first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and assault on a law enforcement officer. He was ordered held under a $1.5 million bond.

Although Garza's father previously reported a missing gun, authorities said there was no indication that Garza would be armed when Cook approached him. Investigators are still trying to determine if the gun used in the shooting belongs to the father.

Cook was taken to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville and was then airlifted to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill after being shot.

"He has multiple surgeries to come," Coats said. "He has some issues with damage to his face, which you can understand, being shot in the face with a .45, there is all types of damage."

Cook also shattered his right ankle in the incident, the sheriff said.