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Chase suspect no longer under guard

By Roxana Orellana

rorellana@postbulletin.com

An Austin man with gunshot wounds to his head and chest no longer needs guarding, says the Mower County Sheriff's Department.

Following the Monday shooting until Wednesday afternoon, sheriff's deputies has been guarding 26-year-old Juan Jesus Mata Jr. in his room at Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester.

He was shot after fleeing Austin police in a high-speed chase and then brandishing a gun at an officer, according to reports. Mata was wanted on a warrant for kidnapping from Jackson County. He was also out on bail awaiting a trial on sexual assault charges in Mower County.

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Mata, the oldest of six children in his family, remains in Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester. He is in critical condition, according to his family.

Until the guards were removed, his mother was allowed to visit him for only 15 minutes a day and could speak only English during the visit.

The family is from Texas, and they speak mostly Spanish at home.

"We don't even know if he is going to make it. …; What do they expect? Is she going to carry him out? He can't even talk," cousin Angel Lopez said Wednesday before the guards were removed.

Sheriff Therese Amazi says the deputies were there for security and safety reasons. Mower County officials were waiting for an official prognosis to make sure Mata is not a threat to anyone and could not leave on his own

On Wednesday, the family called a lawyer to try to find a legal avenue to allow them to visit Mata for more than 15 minutes.

The deputies were released from watching Mata at 1 p.m. Wednesday because doctors reported he would not be able to walk out on his own, Amazi said.

Since the shooting occured Monday and Mata was taken by helicopter to Saint Marys, Mayo Clinic has denied having any information on Mata.

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That proved to be a problem for the family immediately after the shooting.

"They (the hospital staff) tell me he is not there," Lopez said of her initial trip to Saint Marys. "I was even on the same floor where he was at, and they were still telling me he wasn't there."

The family said Mata was shot in the left eye and chest. The bullet to his head destroyed his eye and went through his brain, his mother says. The other bullet damaged his lung.

Mata's mother, Janie Lopez, said the doctor has told her the swelling in Mata's head is getting worse.

The family acknowledges Mata's long history of run-ins with the law. They also believe he might have wanted the officer to kill him since he was depressed about not being able to see his young daughter anymore.

For now, they'll continue to pray for the recovery of a relative they describe as someone who is always willing to help, animated and energetic.

"No matter what, my son is a very good person. He is ready to help anybody no matter who it is, in the good and the bad. He loves his daughter so much," Lopez said.

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