FORMER DARBY Borough Council president Nick DiGregorio was shot in the face by a stray bullet Monday afternoon while driving on a Chester street.

Nick DiGregorio, 66, a Vietnam War veteran who was once a cop and a prison warden, was released from a hospital yesterday, but said the bullet remained lodged in his left cheek.

"I don't think it's really hit me altogether yet, but another couple inches, the bullet would have hit my throat or my brain or my heart," DiGregorio said in a phone interview yesterday. "I don't think I really feel the magnitude of what happened yet."

DiGregorio, who now drives a freight-delivery truck, was approaching a red light on 9th Street near Pennell about 2:30 p.m. when he heard the shots, he said.

"But I wasn't sure if they were firecrackers," he said. "As I was coming to a halt, I saw a car turn onto 9th with a man on foot chasing and shooting at them."

One of those bullets pierced his truck's windshield, went through his upper lip, hit his tooth, went into his gum and lodged in his upper-left cheek, he said. At first, DiGregorio said, he didn't realize what had happened.

"Then I saw the blood," he said. "I guess the shock held back any pain."

He said a few people on the street moved toward his truck. Not only was he able to call 9-1-1, but he had the wherewithal to call the trucking company, he said.

"I still had freight on the truck," DiGregorio said. "I didn't want the truck to be abandoned."

DiGregorio was taken to Crozer-Chester Medical Center. He said doctors told him they wanted to wait a couple of weeks or a month for the swelling in his face to go down before trying to remove the bullet.

DiGregorio, a married father of five, served in Vietnam and was a police officer in Darby in the early 1970s. He then worked at the Delaware County Prison, where he retired as a deputy warden.

"He's had an extensive career in law enforcement, and this happens to him," said Colwyn Borough manager Paula Brown, a former Darby mayor. "He's a great guy, an unbelievable guy."

DiGregorio, who served as Darby Borough Council president and as Darby Borough manager, joked that he "really should work on my bucket list" after his near-death experience.

He said he hasn't heard anything about an arrest in the shooting and he wasn't able to see the shooter's face well enough to provide a good description.

Chester Police Commissioner Joseph Bail Jr. did not return a request for comment.

Tipsters should call Chester police at 610-447-7931.

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