LOS ANGELES – For a decade, the bullet in Jorge Acevedo's skull reminded him that he had nearly lost his life and his dream of becoming a police officer.
Now the reminder is gone.
Acevedo, brain-damaged and partially paralyzed by the Christmas Day 1999 shooting, had the bullet removed last week by a neurosurgeon after it began protruding from his skull.
The surprised surgeon also found a second bullet of a different caliber.
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Acevedo, 39, said Friday he hoped the bullets can provide clues to help find the attackers.
"I feel more and more inspired, more and more strength that anything can be done," said Acevedo, a longtime volunteer at the Glendale Police Department who was in a coma for several months after the shooting. "I feel nothing can stop me right now."
The bullet was left in his body after the shooting because it was near his brain and too dangerous to remove, but he underwent surgery after it migrated through his skull.
Acevedo was in his car and going to drop off gifts for his family when unknown attackers opened fire, wounding him in the head and thigh.
At the time, he was attending college and holding down a job catching shoplifters at a Kmart and a grocery store. He wanted to become a police officer.
Investigators believe he was mistaken for a gang member. Acevedo suspects the attack may have been a carjacking.
"The only thing that I remember is pulling up to the stop sign, seeing bright lights" before blacking out, Acevedo said.
His friend, Glendale police Capt. Lief Nicolaisen, said the car lurched forward and crashed.
"I believe they left him for dead," Nicolaisen said.
While Acevedo was in a coma, doctors recommended removing him from life support, but his mother refused, Nicolaisen said.
When he awoke, Acevedo was partially paralyzed and had slow speech.
Except for an occasional headache, Acevedo said he had no pain from the bullet in his head until last month.
"As I was watching TV ... I felt something move inside and then I felt (a) sharp object moving, like it was cutting, so then I felt dizzy," he said.
He went into the bathroom of the Mount Washington home he shares with his parents and 16-year-old sister.
"I touched the back of my head and I noticed like blood and pus," he said.
He got a mirror and looked.
"It shocked me. I can see the bullet," he said.
The slug had migrated outward, away from his brain, and its ragged edges had started to poke through the skin. On April 1, a neurosurgeon made a small incision and removed the .45-caliber and .22-caliber bullets.
The shooting nearly shattered Acevedo's dream of doing police work. Nicolaisen was teaching a class at Glendale Community College and asked Acevedo to become an unpaid volunteer with Glendale police.
Acevedo can stand only briefly, mostly uses a motorized wheelchair and has balance problems. Still, he works at least 30 hours a week on paperwork and desk duties.
"He has dedicated himself tirelessly here," Nicolaisen said. "His story and his resiliency ... and his positive nature, it inspires everyone."
Acevedo said he wants to inspire others.
"Things happen in life (but) there are other things that you can do," he said. "So don't give up."