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Boy injured playing 'mailbox baseball' making progress

A 16-year-old Grants Pass boy who was severely injured when a form of vandalism known as "mailbox baseball" went horribly wrong last week is making small steps toward recovery at a Portland hospital, his father said Monday.

Joseph Hermosillo, a junior at Grants Pass High School and an avid skater and BMX biker known affectionately as "Joe Fish," was airlifted to Doernbecher Children's Hospital after his friends brought him to Three Rivers Medical Center shortly after 4 a.m. on Oct. 5.

Authorities say an investigation determined that Joseph and another 16-year-old boy had been watching from the back window of a moving motor home as a passenger in the front seat swung a metal baseball bat out the window at mailboxes. Police said the bat hit a telephone pole and flew backward, hitting Joseph in the face.

Four of the friends were arrested — the driver of the motor home, Breanna Allene White, 21; the front-seat passenger, Vega Shaw Russell, 22; another passenger, 18-year-old Dennis Allen Mosier; and a 16-year-old boy whose name hasn't been released.

Joseph's father, Joe Hermosillo, said in a telephone interview from Portland that his son has made great strides in his recovery in the past several days.

"Yesterday was huge," he said Monday. "They're weaning him off the sedation medication. He actually wanted to get out of bed. The nurse asked him, 'Do you want to walk?' He said 'Yes.' They let him walk to the wheelchair and they wheeled him around the room and everyone was clapping for him."

Joseph underwent surgery and had part of his skull removed to alleviate pressure from bleeding in his brain. His skull was fractured in three places, his father said. The teen now has eight plates and 36 screws in his head, but the doctors managed to place the incisions where the scars on his scalp won't be visible, the elder Hermosillo said.

"Joseph is talking now," his father said. "One of his eyes is open."

The bones on the right side of his face were shattered, and his right eye was badly damaged. Eye and ear surgery is scheduled for next Tuesday.

Hermosillo said he was told that some fellow Grants Pass High School students had worn "rasta" colors — yellow, green and red — to school after the accident in honor of his son.

"He loves rasta colors, he loves Bob Marley and reggae," Hermosillo said.

He said his son, who got the nickname "Joe Fish" from a young cousin who couldn't pronounce "Joseph," has been doing well in school and recently learned that he enjoys running.

Joseph's friend Selena Decontreras, a sophomore at GPHS, said he likes riding skateboards.

"He goes to the skate park with his best friend and they skateboard," she said.

White, the driver of the motor home, has been charged with criminal mischief in the incident. She is also facing a separate disorderly conduct charge stemming from a brawl that occurred during the First Friday Art Walk downtown on Sept. 5.

Her previous record includes 2012 convictions for being a minor in possession of alcohol and driving with a suspended license.

Vega has been charged with third-degree assault, hindering prosecution, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment. She was cited on a charge of being a minor in possession of alcohol for an incident last year. Mosier is facing charges of hindering prosecution, tampering with physical evidence, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment. He also has a pending minor-in-possession charge for a September incident. All three have been released from custody.

Hermosillo said he knows all of them well. He said they are "good kids" who made a grave mistake.

"It was a stupid action — stupid kids doing stupid things," he said.

Trish Evens, a spokeswoman for the Grants Pass School District, said she couldn't speak specifically about Joseph's case, but that in general if students have injuries or medical issues that prevent them from coming to school, they are likely eligible for "homebound" instruction in which teachers visit them at home. Counselors are available on campus at GPHS for students who may be emotionally affected by the accident.