After being shot, deputy leaves hospital in time for holiday

Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 5:39 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A Richmond County deputy shot in the line of duty was released from the hospital Tuesday.

Off-duty deputies came to the hospital to escort Michael Cole home in about 15 patrol cars.

He’ll still need surgery to remove the bullet and have dental and skeletal reconstruction, but that can wait until after the holidays.

He’d been in the hospital since being shot in the face when he and another deputy went to a home to investigate a disturbance.

We spoke Monday with a former deputy who stopped at the hospital to see Cole and make a special delivery of some financial assistance for Cole.

Michael Cardenaz with the J.D. Paugh Memorial Foundation was stunned to see Cole on his feet.

“People don’t get into law enforcement or do law enforcement for the money. They do it because they want to make a difference,” he said.

That’s exactly how Cardenaz felt when he saw Cole get out of his hospital bed to shake his hand.

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“He wanted to get out of bed to talk to me out of respect, which totally blew my mind. He’s got a little hard road to go. But it’s very hopeful. I expect him to make a full recovery, but it’s going to take a lot of time. And there again, that’s where the extra money comes in,” said Cardenaz.

The extra money comes from a memorial foundation created 11 years ago in memory of Deputy J.D. Paugh.

“We help deputies and police officers in the CSRA. They go through a hardship, whether it be an injury on duty, which know a lot of times workers comp kicks in the agency takes care of them. But there are other things that are not considered like when they work specials to make ends meet, to make extra money,” he said.

Money raised by the charity goes to law enforcement officers in need – like Cole.

“He showed me where the entry wound was, and the bullet is still lodged in his jaw. That’s one of the next surgeries is to get that out and also do some reconstructive skeletal surgery on his teeth, and then on his jaw. Anytime you do surgery like that, it’s going to cause a little bit more trauma. So he’s got a little road ahead of him. But all in all, he’s a very lucky, young man,” Cardenaz said.

A fraction of an inch in either direction and the bullet would have killed him.

Monday afternoon was the first time Cole was able to speak since the accident and Cardenaz was there to hear it and gift him with a check from the foundation.

“He wants to go back to work. That shows you that, you know, he’s not doing it for the money. He wants to do it because he wants to be back out there with his brothers in law enforcement and doing a good job,” said Cardenaz.

Cardenaz says Cole remembers everything from that night and has yet to give up the fight.