MARIPOSA, Calif. (KFSN) -- In a matter of weeks, the Mariposa County deputy shot in the face by a former marine with PTSD has gone from critical condition to out of the hospital and recovering with his family.
Rudy Mirelez is now showing his face in public, and despite his injuries, is smiling as always.
Friday night, the Mariposa Grizzlies varsity football team took the field with full force, hoping for a win a week before their rivalry game. Not far behind them, there were the flashing lights of law enforcement, escorting the one peace officer on everyone's minds.
Mirelez is still recovering less than a month after being shot in the upper body and mouth following a pursuit with a suspect identified as former Marine Brian Ballasch. Mirelez was in the hospital for nineteen days.
"Rudy has made a miraculous recovery," said Mariposa County Sheriff's Office Volunteer Jim Mason. "I don't think anybody expected him to be out of the hospital as soon as he was."
"To have sustained those injuries and walk out of the hospital is nothing short of miraculous," Mariposa High School Principal Celeste Azevedo said to a loud applause.
Azevedo says it was the deputy's decision to make his first large public appearance since being shot in the line of duty. And the venue for it was perfect. Mirelez has responded to the high school more than 200 times during his decade with the sheriff's office.
"If the student needs a pep talk, he's there, if they need a hug he's there, if they need a stern talk or lecture, he's the one to do it," Azevedo said.
Junior Jorge Magallon says he met Mirelez just a few months ago after a troublemaking streak, but he says Mirelez treated like a family member during their discussions.
"He was really caring and talked about my future, trying to help get me out of the path I was in," Magallon said.
Students care so much for Mirelez that they raised more than $1,000 for his recovery fund during a recent Friday night game. This game was another opportunity for everyone in these stands to say thank you to Mirelez, which he graciously returned with emotional thanks of his own.
"He's part of the Mariposa family and we're just so happy he's recovering," said Mariposa County High School Athletic Director Trace DeSandres.
Mirelez still has a very long road to recovery, including many, many more surgeries.
Deputy shot in line of duty makes public appearance at Mariposa football game