POMONA, Calif.–The medical condition of a new real estate agent who was shot while prospecting near his home after ending a 10-year military career just days earlier has been upgraded from “critical” to “stable.”

Separately, two men have been charged in connection with the agent’s shooting and a fund has been established to help cover the cost of his fast-rising hospital bills and meet related expenses for his wife and four children.

Eric Russell Hinks, 29, was rushed to a local hospital Nov. 1 in critical condition after taking a single shotgun blast to his back. He had just left one of his newly printed business cards on the front door of a home in the Los Angeles bedroom community of Diamond Bar after no one answered his knock.

Although Hinks didn’t know it, law-enforcement officials say, the home was occupied by a tenant who was growing and selling large amounts of marijuana.

The new realty agent was shot because the tenant’s brother mistakenly believed that “Mr. Hinks was going to try to steal the marijuana,” said Deputy District Attorney Abram Weisbrot

Doctors initially thought that Hinks might die from his gunshot wounds; his health began to rally late last week and “he has been taken off the ‘critical list,'” his wife, Bobbie, told Inman News.

“It’s a miracle,” Bobbie Hinks said. “Last week, we thought Eric might die. Today, we’re hoping that he’ll be coming home soon.”

Eric Hinks had retired from the military only last month after a decorated, 10-year stint.

He wanted to join the rest of his squad as they prepared to go to Iraq earlier this year, but changed his mind and began studying for his real estate salesperson’s license instead because he worried that a combat death would leave his wife and four children struggling.

His military discharge papers arrived Oct. 17. Just a few days later, he received notice that he had passed California’s real estate licensing exam on his first try.

The single shotgun blast pierced Hinks’s back in nine places, leaving him with severe intestinal damage, a shattered pelvis, a collapsed lung and other injuries.

Though Bobbie Hinks remains hopeful that her husband will be released from the hospital and reunited with his four children soon, the new agent will face several months of physical rehabilitation and will likely suffer complications from his injuries for the rest of his life.

A fund has been created to help the family pay its rising medical expenses and other bills until Eric Hinks can resume his fledgling real estate career.

Donations can be made to the Eric Hinks Fund, account No. 5025100438, at any branch of Wells Fargo Bank or can be mailed to the fund at 2700 Mildred Place, Ontario, CA 91761.

Separately, two men have been arrested and charged in connection with the agent’s shooting.

James Howard Heesch Jr., 27, faces one count each of possession of marijuana for sale and cultivating marijuana. He rents the Diamond Bar home where Hinks was shot: Law-enforcement officials say they found four pounds of marijuana at the property while investigating the shooting.

Heesch’s older brother, 29-year-old John Steven Heesch, is charged with the shooting. John Heesch allegedly shot Hinks in the back without saying a word because he mistakenly thought the agent had come to steal the dope, according to prosecutor Weisbrot.

John Heesch pleaded not guilty to one count of felony assault with a fireman in Pomona Superior Court on Monday. He will return to court on Jan. 4 so a preliminary hearing date can be set, Weisbrot said.

Heesch’s brother will be arraigned on the marijuana charges that same day, the prosecutor added.

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