Deputy Shot In Face, Chest

• 16-year-old in custody, charged with attempted murder.

‘At the end of the day, he is alive and he is going to come
home to his family at some point.’

— Harnett County Sheriff Wayne Coats Deputy

By LISA FARMER
Managing Editor

A Harnett County Sheriff’s deputy who was shot in the face and in the chest is expected to recover, according to Harnett County Sheriff Wayne Coats.

Deputy James Eric Cook, a more than eight-year veteran of the force, was following up on a missing juvenile report Saturday at 6:34 p.m. when he was shot, allegedly by the missing juvenile, in the parking lot of a Spout Springs church.

Deputy Cook was taken to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center where he was listed in stable condition.

The suspect, Mario A. Garza III, 16, was later apprehended. He is charged with one count of attempted first-degree murder, one count of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and two counts of assault with a firearm on law enforcement. He is being held on a $1.5 million bond. His first court appearance is today.

Sheriff Coats said the weapon used is believed to be a .45-caliber handgun. Deputy Cook, who is married and has children, was shot at close range. One bullet hit him in the center chest and another in the cheek.

Sheriff Coats said the bulletproof vest — and the good Lord — saved his life.

“He is a very lucky young man … ,” Sheriff Coats said. “The Lord was with him.”

Sheriff Coats said Deputy Cook, however, will need further surgery.

Sheriff Coats said Saturday night at the hospital, “He was able to talk to me.”

Sheriff Coats said when he came around the corner, Deputy Cook told him, “Sheriff, I’m OK.”

According to the sheriff, after Deputy Cook was shot, “He was able to call in, ‘Shots fired. I’m hit.’” Immediately after the shooting, deputies from Wake County, Cumberland County, Lee County, Fayetteville Police officers, Highway Patrol and Harnett County Emergency Management responded.

There was a helicopter from the Highway Patrol, K-9 units and drones from other counties looking for the suspect, who was found “down a dirt path behind Cagle Furniture,” Sheriff Coats said.

“I can’t say enough with all the support we’ve received,” he said.

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