Local News

Young drive-by shooting victim tells story of survival

Posted October 9, 2009 6:00 p.m. EDT
Updated October 9, 2009 7:22 p.m. EDT

— Jermaine Huggins said he doesn’t remember what it felt like to be shot. However, he still has some vivid memories from that day in February 1997 that changed his life forever.

Jermaine was 4 years old, playing on the front porch of his Carver Street home, when a drive-by shooter’s stray bullets hit him in the back, damaging his spine and leaving him partially paralyzed.

“I just remember I was outside. I was playing, and a guy runs up and jumps and I get hit, twice. I fall. My father comes outside and picks me up, carries me on the porch and I’m bleeding,” he said.

Jermaine, who is now a 16-year-old sophomore at Enloe High School, was a little boy caught between two angry men who decided to settle their argument with gunfire. Police said the shooting was drug-related.

Officers arrested Tyrell Beal, who was 20 at the time, and charged him with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. He was found guilty in July 1997. Authorities said they believe Beal fired the shots that struck Jermaine.

The bullets were intended for Terrell Harris, who was 17 at the time and standing nearby, police said.

David Ashley, who was also 17 at the time and drove the Ford Taurus that sped away from the scene, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, police said. He was also found guilty in July 1997.

Jermaine spent 13 days in WakeMed’s pediatric intensive care unit and underwent three operations before he was released from the hospital. After hearing that the injured boy was too scared to go home, community leaders and volunteers raised money to help his family move to a safer neighborhood.

Twelve years later, Jermaine is thriving in school and enjoying typical teenage hobbies, like playing video games and the drums. He lives with his aunt and uncle, Louise and Charles Valentine, whom he calls mom and dad.

“I am a normal person, just like (other students). It’s just I have crutches,” Jermaine said. “I’m glad people notice that I’m there. I thank them for that.”

Whatever he does and wherever he goes, Charles Valentine is watching with pride.

“(I’m impressed with) his courage and his determination. You know, he’ll see other kids doing things, and it never enters into his mind that he cannot do it."