Harnett deputy recovering, teen charged after shooting

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— The family of a Harnett County deputy says he is doing well after he was shot in the face and chest on Saturday while confronting a teenager who had been reported missing.

Sixteen-year-old Mario Alexander Garza III has been charged in the shooting of Deputy James Eric Cook, according to the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office.

According to Sheriff Wayne Coats, authorities received a tip about a missing juvenile at about 6:34 p.m. on Saturday, and Cook responded to a wooded area near H.M. Cagle Drive to investigate.

Coats said Cook confronted Garza, who was reported missing Friday night, and the pair got into an altercation. During the altercation, Garza pulled a .45 caliber gun and shot Cook in the face and chest.

Coats said one bullet struck Cook in the cheekbone and the one that struck his chest was stopped by a bullet-proof vest.

Cook was taken to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, where he was in stable condition and able to talk late Sunday morning. Family members say he will need an operation in several days but that his face is too swollen to start the procedure.

“We had a good conversation under the circumstances. He is a lucky young man,” Coats said.

Garza has been charged with attempted first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and serious injury assault on a law enforcement officer. His bond is set at $1.5 million.

Coats said there were no prior indications that Garza would pose a danger to officers. The reason for the shooting has yet to be determined.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol, and Wake, Lee and Cumberland County Sheriff’s Offices are assisting in the investigation.

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