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More than a week after a Waseca, Minn., police officer was shot in the head, small signs are providing a bit of hope for recovery.

Arik Matson remains in critical condition at North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale, but he is able to respond to questions, squeezing a finger or giving a thumbs-up sign, Kaleb Hurley, Matson's pastor, said in a video update this week.

"Make no mistake, … Arik still has a really long road ahead of him," Hurley said.

Matson was shot Jan. 6 as he and three officers responded to a call about a suspicious person roaming backyards in the area. The bullet entered the front of Matson's head and exited the back, Hurley explained.

"It's a miracle that he's alive," he said.

Tyler R. Janovsky, 37, the man accused of shooting Matson and firing his gun at two other officers, has been charged with three counts of first-degree attempted murder.

As the swelling from Matson's injury subsides, doctors are able to do more tests and get answers, Hurley said, noting that caregivers are encouraged by the changes they've seen.

Medical scans are tracking changes and a post on his Caring Bridge page notes another CT scan is scheduled for Thursday.

"Even though he's got a long road to recovery ahead of him, he's making tremendous strides, even the Neuro team is impressed," the Caring Bridge post said.

The southern Minnesota communities where Matson lives and works have rallied to raise money for the 32-year-old father of two young girls. A GoFundMe page has raised more than $170,000 while area businesses and other fundraising events are hoping to add to the kitty.

Matson and his wife live in Freeborn, 25 miles south of Waseca, where he serves on the City Council and is a volunteer firefighter. He graduated from Albert Lea High School, where he was in the police explorer's program and interned with the Albert Lea Police Department.

Matson's shooting has shaken the small communities, said Steve Seipp, the Freeborn fire chief who also works as a police officer in nearby Wells, Minn.

"When he's your next-door-neighbor and you see him all the time, it hits you right at home," Seipp said.

In a show of solidarity, residents of the two communities are turning on blue lights.

"There gets to be more and more every day," Seipp said. "It shows the community supports Arik and all of law enforcement. When you patrol in the middle of the night and you come by a house and you see blue light, it gives you a real warm feeling inside. It's a silent thumbs up."

Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788