Host: Thirteen-year old Aaron Hunter was shot in the head just after 5 pm of June 22 in Sarasota. Since then, he has made remarkable medical progress – so much so that he was actually able to attend a vigil for gunshot victims, in the first-row seat of a local church, at times standing up, wearing a black cap. But it was his mom who took the pulpit and the spotlight during the annual vigil by gun control group Brady Sarasota County. Our news team was at the First United Congregational Church last Friday.
[a capella singing]
Johannes Werner: That was Shelia Atkins who followed Aaron’s mom at the annual Brady vigil, with a soulful rendering of “If I Can Help Somebody”.
Aaron’s mom, Erica Dorsey, who worked two jobs on that bad day this summer, gave a first-hand account of how she lived through those challenging hours, repeating how lucky Aaron was and how grateful she is, but also how it took a while for the seriousness of his situation trickling in.
Erica Dorsey. Photo: Werner
Erica Dorsey: Hello! … [crowd: Hello!] … I’m just going to take you guys back to June 22. When I received the news, I was shocked. I remember I had just come from McDonald’s with my four-year old daughter, and a kid came and knocked on the door, and said, ‘Aaron has been shot’. And I said, ‘No, he hasn’t’. I was like ‘You’re lying.’ And then there was sirens in the distance. And he said, ‘You hear? That was for him. They’re coming and get him.’ Then I said, ‘Pick my phone up to call him’. His phone went to voicemail — which it typically does, because he always left his phone off. So then I picked it up, and I tried to call him again, and it went to voicemail. So now, at this point, I’m mad because I can’t get in touch with him. So maybe what this kid is saying is true. I proceeded to go outside to get in my car, and then a young lady pulled up, and she was so hysterical. And she was like, ‘Your baby, your baby! He’s over here, he’s been shot’. And so I remember telling her that she needed to calm down if she was going to drive me over there, or else I would drive myself, because she was just out of control. So when I got there, I was expecting to see something completely different, just from her reaction. But when I got there, surprisingly, he was sitting up in a chair, kind of slumped over to the side a little bit. And the officer was saying, ‘Hey, stay with me!’, and was like, ‘What’s your name?’ And he was like, ‘Aaron’. So I was like, okay, maybe he was not as serious as I thought it was. I couldn’t see the wound to his head, not really knowing at the time the seriousness. And I just remember kind of kneeling down next to him. And in the end, for some reason, this voice — I’m just gonna say it was God — is saying: ‘Go!’.
JW: The bullet was millimeters away from bursting a major blood vessel. Aaron was bay-flighted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in St. Petersburg, conscious throughout. Two days after surgery, he woke up, unable to speak. When mom asked him what he needed, he wrote on a paper: “Gatorade”.
On the sixth day, he had a seizure.
ED: I think that was the day that I actually broke. The nurse was saying, ‘You know, we’ve been looking for this from the beginning’, because prior to that, when I first found out everything, I’d never cried prior to that day when he had a seizure.
Aaron Hunter, mother Erica Dorsey, and Brady Sarasota County President Carol Rescigno. Photo: Werner
JW: But therapy with specialists helped Aaron recover. His speech has returned completely. He was discharged after two and half weeks, and he is now going through many doctors’ and therapy appointments. His peripheral vision is still affected, but he has been able to go to back to Brookside Middle School since Day 1 after summer vacations.
All Aaron remembers is picking mangos with a friend in someone’s backyard, and then waking up in the hospital. It still isn’t clear where the shot came from and who shot. Sarasota Police haven’t released much information, but they say there is an ongoing investigation, and they are asking for tips.
After her speech, Erica Dorsey made a plea for gun owners to lock up their guns.
A report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released yesterday drives home Erica Dorsey’s point. In the technical language of the CDC report, “unintentional injury is a leading cause of death among children and adolescents, and firearms are a leading injury method”. Two-thirds of unintentional firearm deaths by children happened when the shooter was playing with the gun, or showing it to others. Three-fourths of those firearms were stored unlocked, and almost all of them were loaded. The children found most of those guns in a nightstand or elsewhere in bedrooms.
In other words: If you own them, keep them unloaded, or at least lock them up.
This has been Johannes Werner, reporting for WSLR News.
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