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Snorkeler mistaken for rodent, shot in face

February 10, 2007 - Associated Press

Story Highlights

• Shooter says he thought swimmer was big rodent
• Victim in good condition after 8 hours of surgery
• Gunman, 60, charged with assault, drug possession

EUGENE, Oregon (AP) -- A snorkeler who was shot in the face after he was apparently mistaken for a swimming rodent was in good condition after surgery, a hospital said Saturday.

John William Cheesman, 44, of Springfield, underwent eight hours of surgery Thursday to remove bullet and bone fragments from his face, said his wife, Shelley Cheesman.

"He's doing really well," Shelley Cheesman said. "The bullet hit in front of his right ear, where the bone is the most dense. It just fragmented and didn't go into his brain."

He was listed in good condition at Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland.

William Roderick, 60, of Reedsport, has been charged with assault, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and possession of methamphetamine and marijuana. He was being held in the county jail.

Roderick told deputies he thought Cheesman was a nutria swimming in the Smith River near Reedsport, about 90 miles southwest of Eugene, and shot him with a .22-caliber rifle, police said.

A nutria is a water-dwelling South American rodent species that is larger than a muskrat but smaller than a beaver. It was introduced to U.S. waters in the 1940s, according the National Wildlife Federation.

Cheesman, an avid diver, was in the river looking at different species of fish, his wife said. He swam to the river bank and yelled for help.

Roderick and another man came to Cheesman's aid in a boat, called 911 and drove him to an ambulance.

"I do give him credit for helping him," Shelley Cheesman said of Roderick.

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