Goose Creek -- Three weeks after he was blasted with buckshot during a domestic violence call, the toughest thing Police Officer Robert Edwards Jr. is dealing with is having his jaw reconstructed.

"I can talk fairly well, but I can't open my mouth very far," he said Monday. "It makes eating difficult, but I can still smile."

Edwards smiled broadly during a news conference at police headquarters. He was accompanied by his attorney, David Aylor, his wife, Gretchen Edwards, and Police Chief Harvey Becker.

"I want to thank the Goose Creek Police Department and my fellow officers for all the support given to my family," Edwards said. It was his first public statement since the shooting that put him in the hospital. He also thanked the firefighters and paramedics who responded the night he was shot.

Edwards, 47, was the first officer to arrive at the scene of a domestic dispute at a house on Iris Street at about 8 p.m. July 19. When he got there, a man was standing on the front porch, firing a 12-gauge shotgun.

The man already had grazed two neighbors who were trying to rescue the man's wife and children from inside the house. Edwards was trying to take cover when the man shot at him, according to police reports.

Edwards, a 20-year law enforcement veteran, was struck by buckshot in nine places, including his arms, hand, shoulder, face and upper torso. He returned fire but missed. The suspect was taken into custody after having been wounded by shots fired by two other Goose Creek officers.

Police charged Codrick Delmaire Bass, 33, of 111 Iris St. with four counts of attempted murder and a number of other charges. Bass was jailed after being treated for his injuries.

Edwards was rushed to Medical University Hospital. One shot had punctured his lung and he was on a respirator until he was able to breathe on his own.

Doctors have removed most of the buckshot, Edwards said Monday. "But I still have pieces of shrapnel in me. According to doctors, I am not sure how long I am going to carry them."

Edwards was not wearing his department-issued bullet-resistant vest on the day of the shooting. Departmental policy makes wearing the vests optional, he said.

"That particular day I was not wearing the vest," he said. Sometimes he wears it, sometimes he does not. The day was forecast to be very hot and humid, he said. "Given the location of the injuries, I suspect it would have had no effect on the injuries."

Edwards said he is looking forward to getting back on the job and will do so as soon as he can.

His wife, Gretchen, a Goose Creek police dispatcher, said she was upset by the shooting but she was not at all surprised that her husband wants to get back on patrol. "I knew this is what I married into," she said. "It's part of the job."

Reach David W. MacDougall at 937-5655.