By Mike Stunson Lexington Herald-Leader

SCOTT COUNTY, Ky. — A Scott County sheriff’s deputy mostly paralyzed after being shot in the line of duty last month received a hero’s welcome when he returned to the county Thursday.

Jaime Morales was shot during a confrontation with a fugitive Sept. 11 and has spent most of the last month in a spinal rehabilitation facility in Louisville.

Soon after the shooting, Scott County Sheriff Tony Hampton called Morales’ injury “life changing” and said his legs were mostly paralyzed.

Morales will need to head back to Louisville to continue his rehab at a later time..

“The community is real excited about him coming home and the sheriff’s office is excited, too,” Hampton said Thursday morning. “It will be good to see him come and him get some rest.”

The sheriff’s office did not receive word until Wednesday that Morales would be released Thursday, Hampton said. Hampton said he hopes to have a parade in Morales’ honor in the future.

Hampton called Thursday a “mini parade.” Hampton said the route was going to take Morales to various schools in the county, where students made posters welcoming him back home.

Scott County High School sophomore Colby Conley said the shooting that injured Morales had a “huge” impact on students and teachers.

“We have a huge respect for what they do for us.; they are in our school all the time,” Conley said. “We just wanted to show our support.”

The support the sheriff’s office has received from the community has been “overwhelming,” Hampton said. Donations have poured in from people wanting to help pay Morales’ hospital bills. Money has been received for a handicapped-accessible vehicle. T-shirts are available at the sheriff’s office for $15, with the proceeds going to Morales.

“I hope it continues,” Hampton said of the support. “It’s very kind of everybody to be this generous and want to give to this cause.”

Hampton said he visited Morales four times in rehab and the deputy’s spirits have remained positive.

“He has rehabbed very hard and has exceeded their expectations up to this point as to where he should be,” Hampton said. “I think he is ahead of the curve a little bit.”

In a Facebook post earlier this month, Morales said he hopes to one day put back on his sheriff’s uniform. He said he would give anything to get back to doing what he loves.

“Sometimes we take the simplest things for granted. Something as simple as walking can be gone in a blink of an eye,” he said. “Look around you and be thankful for what you do have in this moment. You never know when your life could change completely. My goal is to one day wear this uniform again and continue to serve and protect you all.”

©2018 the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.)

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