DEA agent who lost eyesight after being shot makes his new mission to help others

Joseph Piersante retiring this week

When Joseph Piersante was shot while working with the Drug Enforcement Agency, his life changed forever.

DETROIT – When Joseph Piersante was shot while working with the Drug Enforcement Administration, his life changed forever.

Piersante’s job as a DEA agent took him to Afghanistan as part of the FAST Team.

“It doesn’t exist anymore. It was kind of like DEA’s overseas tactile team,” he said. “These drug labs, they (the Taliban) fiercely defend them and there all behind enemy lines.”

In 2009, while overseas, Piersante was shot in the head and lost his eyesight.

“I had a frontal lobe brain injury because the bullet went to the front of my brain. I had two ruptured eye globes and two detached retinas, in which resulted in the brain injury, resulting in the craniotomy,” he said.

Instead of letting what happened negatively impact his life, he used it as a way to help others.

"In life we can’t always determine what happens to us, but what we can do is we can make the best out of our situation as we can,” Piersante said.

He could no longer do his job, so he started speaking to people in the community, educating them about the dangers of drugs and helping them with treatment strategies.

He also made fitness and bodybuilding a huge part of his life, and worked to share his story every step of the way.

Piersante is retiring this week after working with the DEA for more than 20 years.

He hopes stem cells may be able to restore some of his eyesight next year. In the meantime, he said he is working on a potential screenplay and a book.

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter and part of the Local 4 Defenders team.