LINCOLN COUNTY, Mo. – A Lincoln County deputy shot in the line of duty Thursday evening is recovering and considered to be in stable condition. Authorities credit a bulletproof vest for saving his life.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office has identified Robert Wagner as the deputy shot. He joined the agency in June with around two years of service and had recently completed training to serve in Lincoln County.

After the shooting happened, investigators learned that the suspect in the case was later found dead, though they have not yet disclosed what led up to his death. The Missouri State Highway Patrol has identified the suspect found deceased as Thomas Varvera.

Robert Wagner (Photo provided by: Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office)

Wagner was shot around 6:30 p.m. in the 1500 block of Creech School Road on Thursday while responding to a disturbance, one that reportedly involved a man making threats. The Missouri State Highway Patrol issued a blue alert while responding to the situation.

Wagner reportedly suffered shots to the chest while he was wearing a bulletproof vest.

“Had he not been wearing a bulletproof vest, the outcome of this could have been very different,” said Captain David Hill with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

Wagner was rushed to the hospital and underwent surgery Thursday to address multiple injuries. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, in a news release Friday, said they are “cautiously optimistic” about Wagner and his recovery.

“We expect him to have some laughs in the near future,” said Hill.

“Deputy Wagner’s dedication and commitment to serving our community have been evident since his arrival at the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office,” said Lincoln County Sheirff Rick Harrell. “We are heartened by his progress and the strong spirit he has shown. We extend our gratitude to all who have been involved in his care and those who have shown unwavering support.”

Varvera reportedly set his own house on fire after the shooting. While MSHP responded to the scene, authorities arrived to the back side of the home and eventually found him deceased in a shed.

“No call is routine,” said Hill. “We go out, and get calls. If it’s a disturbance or it’s a domestic call, we never know what we are rolling up to.”

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office says it remains fully cooperative with the ongoing investigation into the shooting and suspect’s death, which is being handled by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. The sheriff’s office adds Wagner was “bravely carrying out his duty” while responding to the call.

“They were doing the best they could to make sure people were safe, and unfortunately, this became a negative incident,” said Hill.

Wagner worked with the Normandy Police Department for two years before joining the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.