Terrika Johnson seems to be in good physical condition after she was wounded in a shootout between two men Thursday night, but her mother worries that the 4-year-old has been left with psychological wounds that may never heal.
"It'll be with her for the rest of her life," Terrika's mother, Amanda Jacobs, 24, said yesterday. "She'll never forget she's been shot."
Terrika and her sister, Tirani, 2, were walking near their home with their mother, who was carrying a friend's 18-month-old. The small group had reached Greenmount Avenue and Biddle Street when gunfire erupted.
"All I heard was gunshots," said Ms. Jacobs, a petite woman who is about 5 feet 4 inches tall. "I just grabbed my baby girl across the ground and behind a wall. I screamed to Terrika to get behind a wall and get down. She knows what a gunshot is."
It wasn't until the shooting ended and Ms. Jacobs saw blood coming from Terrika's coat that she realized her oldest child had had been struck. Ms. Jacobs, Tirani and the 18-month-old were not hurt.
Terrika was taken to Mercy Medical Center by a stranger who stopped to help. The child was released early yesterday.
The 9mm bullet is still lodged in Terrika's body behind one of her lungs, Ms. Jacobs said. The bullet is expected to be removed in about a month. In the meantime, the little girl is expected to be able to play and participate in most of her regular activities.
Ms. Jacobs said Terrika never shed a tear throughout the ordeal.
"She never cried," Ms. Jacobs said. "She was just scared."
Eastern District Police say two men, one armed with a handgun, got out of a car at Forrest and Biddle streets and attempted to rob another man who pulled out a handgun and began shooting. One of the first two men shot back.
In the confusion, a Department of Correction van and a car collided near the intersection when their drivers tried to avoid the bullets. The two men drove off in a white car, and the man about to be robbed ran.
Police yesterday arrested Antoine Jerome Pettiford, 22, of the 600 block of N. Lakewood Ave. and charged him with attempted murder and a handgun violation. He was arrested without incident at 5:40 p.m. in the 1100 block of Brentwood Ave.,police said. He was awaiting a bail hearing at the Eastern District Lockup. Police are still seeking two other suspects.
Ms. Jacobs said that this wasn't the first time for Terrika to be affected by violence. Just last summer, the child, then 3, ran into the house screaming: "They're shootin' out there! They're shootin' out there!"
Ms. Jacobs said violence is rampant in the neighborhood.
"They always shooting any time of the day," she said. But she said she never thought the problems would touch her family so closely.
Ms. Jacobs grew up in the East Baltimore neighborhood, not far from the house she now shares with family members.
Ms. Jacobs said she believes the shootout was drug-related, since drugs account for much of the violence in her neighborhood.
"My main concern now is my daughter," Ms. Jacobs said. "Once she gets well enough I want to move out of this neighborhood to somewhere else. There's no place safe, but there's got to be a better neighborhood than this."
Although frightened for her daughter, Ms. Jacobs said, she forced herself to appear calm for Terrika's sake. She has continued to do that even now, allowing reporters in for interviews while she tended to Terrika's needs.
Yesterday, Terrika appeared much like any other 4-year-old at home. Wearing a long night shirt, she quietly sucked on her thumb.
But things aren't the same.
Although the doctor says Terrika can play, Ms. Jacobs said she doesn't plan to let the child play outside. "I'm just afraid," the mother said.