A Brazilian man who was blinded by a stray bullet in downtown Calgary nearly five years ago has finished his studies to become a massage therapist.
Jose Neto and his girlfriend were sitting on a park bench near Chinatown in September 2008 when a man several metres away shot at a drug dealer during an altercation.
The bullet missed its target and struck Neto in the face, permanently blinding him.
Neto was vistiting Calgary to study English.
Many Calgarians offered help as Neto recovered and adjusted to life without sight, resulting in some lasting friendships, he said.
"They're always around, calling, checking to see if everything is OK. They're so proud of me graduating and they're still really supportive and present."
Neto and his girlfriend, Roberta Porto, married and decided to make Calgary their new home.
'Bright future ahead of him'
"He definitely has a bright future ahead of him with lots of options," said Sarah Ward, one of Neto’s instructors.
Neto said some parts of the curriculum were tough with no visual references to go on.
But with help from his wife, he was able to master the necessary skills.
"I've been doing it with a lot of passion and I'm loving it," he said.
Neto is currently working at Oasis Wellness Centre and Spa in Mount Royal Village. He said he hopes to someday open his own business.
Roland Ashley Warawa — the man who was ultimately convicted of shooting Neto — has a lengthy record of violent crime.
He was declared a dangerous offender and sentenced to prison indefinitely in 2010.