CRAVEN COUNTY -

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information on the person who shot a Marine while he was driving home from Cherry Point, causing a bullet to be lodged in his neck.

According to Capt. Joe Heckman with the Craven County Sheriff’s Office, 24-year-old John Cooksey was driving alone west on Highway 70 with his window down at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Cooksey had just finished a night shift repairing C-130 aircraft at MCAS Cherry Point, and was heading to his Bridgeton home to be with his wife and 18-month-old daughter.

But when Cooksey was near Captain Bly's Shipwreck Cove at 4605 Highway 70 East --between Havelock and New Bern-- he heard a loud pop and began bleeding on the left side of his neck.

"I didn't really feel like I had gotten shot. It was like a loud balloon pop to my ear," Cooksey told NewsChannel 12. "I thought getting shot would hurt a lot worse, especially around your head and your neck area."

Investigators said Cooksey then called his sergeant, who was traveling in front of him. They stopped at an Exxon on Highway 70 to find out what happened. Cooksey began feeling ill and an ambulance was called.

Once Cooksey was taken to CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern, a scan of his head and neck revealed that he was shot behind his left ear, deputies said. The bullet is lodged in Cooksey's neck near his spine and an artery.

"They said that if it was a millimeter or so either way, then it probably would've ended my life," Cooksey recalled. "I'm glad I'm still alive, because most people aren't that lucky if they get shot."

The bullet will remain in Cooksey's neck because doctors decided it's safer to leave it there than to perform an operation.

Deputies are still searching for the shooter.

Investigators said they do not know if Cooksey was targeted or if the shooting was accidental. They are also working to determine where the bullet was fired from.

"If anybody has heard anything or if it's juveniles, they're probably going to speak of it to one another. If there's a juvenile out there that has heard about this, go tell your parents, so we can figure out what's going on. If it's an accident, then it's an accident," said Capt. Heckman.

Although Craven County Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information leading to an arrest, officials said the exact amount will not be released until an arrest is made.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Craven County Sheriffs Office at 252-636-6644 or Crime Stoppers at 252-633-5141. The Crime Stoppers number does not require that people identify themselves.