Health Team

Wife of Harnett deputy shot in face: 'We are fortunate, thankful, blessed'

Authorities on Monday charged Mario Alexander Garza III, 16, with two counts of larceny involving a firearm. Garza was previously charged with shooting Harnett County Sheriff's Office Cpl. Eric Cook in the face.

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Sloane Heffernan
, WRAL anchor/reporter & Natalie Matthews, editor

On the same day new charges were announced against a teen who authorities say shot a Harnett County deputy in the face, the deputy's wife spoke to the public about the attack for the first time.

Mario Alexander Garza III, 16, was charged Monday with two counts of larceny involving a firearm and a misdemeanor probation violation. Garza was initially charged with 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.

Harnett County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Eric Cook, 36, also was shot in the chest, but his protective vest stopped that bullet, Sheriff Wayne Coats said. The deputy was able to get off a couple shots of his own during the April 14 incident, but he didn't hit the teen suspect.

"Eric is expected to make a full recovery with time and rehabilitation, and for that we are extremely fortunate, thankful and blessed," said Melissa Cook.

Coats said the moment he learned one of his deputies had been shot was one of the worst moments of his career.

"It was the most sickening phone call that I have had since being sheriff – when you get that call that one of your officers has been shot," he said.

According to police reports obtained by WRAL News, Garza's parents reported him as a runaway the day before the shooting.

Eric Cook, who also shattered his right ankle in the incident, has since been released from the hospital.

"This incident could have been so much worse for our family if not for the grace and mercy of God," Melissa Cook said.

Days after the shooting, Garza's mother reported three handguns missing from her home. Authorities said those were the same firearms used in the shooting.

Garza will make his first court appearance on the larceny charges and a misdemeanor probation violation charge Tuesday at 9 a.m.


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