Zach Cotton was improving but remained in critical condition Tuesday after being shot in the face last Friday night in what investigators say appears to be an accidental shooting.
“It was a tough night for him but he’s doing better this morning,” his father, Noel Cotton, said in an interview Tuesday morning. “They’ve got him on a trach, now, and took the respirator off so he’s breathing on his own.
“He’s just in a lot of pain, of course, and they’re trying to get that under control.”
Zach Cotton, a youth minister at Alton Christian Church and an animal control officer with Anderson County government, was with friends when another person’s gun discharged and struck him in the head. The bullet shattered his jaw before exiting through his neck.
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Sheriff Joe Milam said his office is investigating the incident.
“This appears to be an accidental shooting,” Milam said. “There doesn’t appear to be any foul play.”
Milam said another person at 1314 Alton Station Road was apparently cleaning a 9 mm Smith & Wesson handgun around 11 p.m. when it discharged, hitting Cotton.
Cotton was airlifted to the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital after being treated by Anderson County EMS.
Noel Cotton, minister at Alton Christian, said doctors at UK wired shut his son’s jaw on Monday and have him on antibiotics to hopefully prevent infection from setting him.
He said a surgery to repair his son’s jaw was postponed Monday due to inflammation and swelling, along with damage to a saliva gland.
“Hopefully Monday or Tuesday they can go in and repair his jaw,” he said. “They have one shot to fix it with what they have to work with and need to have all the conditions right when they go in there.”
He said his son is learning to deal with his injury, including how to breath with his mouth wired shut.
“He’s doing good overall, for what he’s been through,” he said. “He’s dealing with it a lot better than I thought he would.
“I think he got his hopes a little too high in the beginning … thought they would just operate on him and get on out of here. It’s just going to take time for him to understand the severity of what has happened.”
Noel Cotton said his family is doing OK and asked only that the outpouring of prayers for his son continue.
Anderson County Judge-Executive Orbrey Gritton said Monday that all of county government is hoping for Cotton to recover.
“He and his family are in our thoughts and prayers,” said Gritton.
“We wish him a speedy recovery and hope to have him back on the job sooner rather than later.”
Gritton said Cotton does a good job at the animal shelter.
“Zach is a great coworker,” Gritton said. “He loves the animals, and they love him right back. He really connects with them.”