A deputy trainee who was shot in the face by a reputed gang member during a shootout in East Los Angeles was recovering from surgery Thursday, with doctors remaining hopeful.
``Looking at the big picture right now, he is exceeding all of our expectations,'' Dr. Kenji Inaba said at a news conference Thursday. ``We're very pleased with his progress. He's doing very well.''
The wounded deputy, Mohamed Ahmed, 27, was hospitalized in critical but stable condition after the Tuesday night shooting, according to sheriff's officials.
``He's communicating with us fully. He's giving us the thumbs up,'' Inaba said.
Doctors placed wiring in Ahmed's jaw, performed surgery on an eye that was ``seriously injured,'' and inserted a breathing tube into his windpipe.
``I think what we have really depends on what the ophthalmologist decides to do with the eye, whether it's salvaged or the prognosis of the eye,'' oral and facial surgeon Dr. Nam Cho said. ``So it really depends on these next few days on how the eye responds I think.''
According to the sheriff's department, Ahmed and his training officer were on patrol in East Los Angeles about 7:15 p.m. Tuesday when they saw 37-year-old Nestor Torres -- on parole for a conviction of being a felon in possession of a gun and shooting at an inhabited dwelling -- acting suspiciously in a parked car at North Brannick Avenue, near Floral Drive in the unincorporated City Terrace area.
When the deputies made contact with him, a struggle ensued and Torres shot Ahmed in the face, prompting Ahmed's training deputy to return fire, according to sheriff's officials.
Ahmed and Torres were taken to County-USC Medical Center, where Torres was pronounced dead.
Sheriff Lee Baca said that Ahmed is ``very strong, and very stable, and he was talking before he was sedated ... and so, we're just grateful that there was no injury to his brain, which is generally the most critical thing when a head shot occurs.''
``Given the fact that he was shot, it came very close to his brain, and it was a matter of inches between this excellent prognosis and a very devastating injury,'' Inaba said. ``So, overall he is, I hate to use the word `luck,' but the track of the bullet it was fortunate where it landed.''
The suspect was shot and killed by Ahmed's training deputy, a 21-year veteran of the sheriff's department described as ``a long-term field training officer.'' Parker said the lawman suffered ``mild injuries during the initial fight when Torres tried to shoot him, but was not hospitalized.''
The sheriff's department declined to release the name of Ahmed's training deputy.
``After the shooting, investigators discovered Torres was in possession of two handguns,'' Parker said. ``Both handguns were recovered at the scene.''
Parker said Ahmed had working on patrol for three weeks when the encounter occurred. The training officer recognized Torres and knew he was a parolee.
Before that Ahmed had been working in the jails, standard procedure for new deputies.
Ahmed moved to the United States from his native Somalia when he was seven. He lived in Orange County, Parker did not specify the city, and supports his six younger brothers and sisters as well as his mother. Three older siblings live out of state.
Ahmed's father died in 2009, and the father officially put Ahmed in charge as the family's breadwinner.
Parker said Ahmed ``really appreciates this country and wanted to give back to this country.''
Ahmed worked extra volunteer hours with the sheriff's Muslim Community Affairs Unit, which Baca established several years ago in an attempt to build bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims.
There are only two fulltime employees of the unit, a sergeant and a deputy, but several other deputies like Ahmed who volunteer above and beyond their regular duties, Parker said.
``We are here to pray for him,'' Salam Al-Marayati of the Muslim Public Affairs Council told ABC7. ``And what a loving family. All the family members are there around the bed. We made a prayer for him and he was touched by it so he wrote on his notepad `thank you sirs,' and we said `No, it's our honor to be here with you. You don't need to call us sirs.'''
Parker quoted one of those fellow deputy volunteers, Sherif Morsi, who described Ahmed as ``energetic, with a great sense of humor and a fun guy to spend time with. He had a way of cheering every body up.''
Ahmed was really imbued with the need for Muslims and non-Muslims to learn more about each other, Parker said.
When Ahmed woke up in the hospital yesterday, the first words from his mouth were to ask if his partner was OK and how were his younger brothers, then asked when he could get back to work, Parker said.
Parker said that isn't likely to happen soon, citing a number of medical procedures Ahmed would have to work through.
Doctors said he would need several more surgeries, but with continued progress Ahmed is expected to be out of the hospital in a week or more.