Despite shooting, star will play football again

June 28, 1994|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Sun Staff Writer

After surviving five bullet wounds, Donald "DJ" Gibson is getting on with his life, working to keep his dreams alive.

The former Wilde Lake High School football star feared he would be sidelined permanently from his plans to play college football after his encounter with two gun-toting strangers on a dark Northwest Baltimore street in February.

But Mr. Gibson beat the odds and is scheduled to play on a football scholarship as a free safety for the Sheppard College Rams in West Virginia this fall.

"I'm happy to be alive," Mr. Gibson said yesterday, pointing to bullet entry and exit wounds on his left elbow. He was dressed in a T-shirt that showed jailed boxer Mike Tyson and read, "I'LL BE BACK."

"I was scared I wasn't going to walk again," said Mr. Gibson, who turns 19 tomorrow. "Whether I was going to be in a wheelchair for life, that's what scared me the most."

Last week, a doctor removed some of the bullet fragments that had recently surfaced in his elbow. Fragments from two other elbow wounds and a right heel wound were removed in surgery immediately after the shooting.

It's the metal that remains lodged in his pelvis and his shin that the NFL-hopeful cannot avoid pondering as he works out at a gym in Columbia, pedals on his mountain bike or times his speed on the track.

The injuries will undoubtedly haunt him in the future, but Mr. Gibson said it's the questions about the identity of his two assailants, who were armed with 9 mm handguns, that still pass through his mind.

They are questions for which he may never have answers.

The investigation into the shooting was suspended about three days after Mr. Gibson was shot on Feb. 12.

Until police come across a suspect or handgun that could be tied to his ordeal, the case will remain one of hundreds of unsolved shootings in Baltimore.

"It's a bad situation for everybody," said Baltimore Police Officer Mark Wiedefeld, an investigator in the Northwest Baltimore precinct. "We'd like to find out who shot him, too.

"Normally, if it's one or two guys, they're not going to stop," said Officer Wiedefeld. "An arrest would help clear up other cases."

According to police reports, Mr. Gibson and his cousin, 21-year-old Terrence Washington, were returning from a McDonald's near the intersection of Reisterstown Road and Boarman Avenue about 10 p.m. on a Saturday night when they saw two men approaching them.

The men walked behind the victims, ordered them to stop and began shooting when they ran. Mr. Gibson was hit in the leg and fell to the ground, where he tucked himself in a fetal position while a gunman shot four more rounds into him. His cousin escaped unharmed.

Mr. Gibson was one of 17 shooting victims in Northwest Baltimore in February. Baltimore police, swamped with shootings, said they had few leads to follow in his case.

"I don't think I'll find out who did it," Mr. Gibson said. "Right now, I'm trying not to worry about it. I'm going to try to get on with my life and leave that in the past."

Mr. Gibson said now that his strength is returning, his hospital visits are less frequent, his crutches are obsolete and he no longer has to go on dates with an intravenous unit in his arm.

"I'm coming along," he said. "I figure if I was supposed to have died, I would have died."

Before the shooting, Mr. Gibson said that he weighed 203 pounds and bench pressed 335 pounds. Now, his weight has dropped about 20 pounds and he "only" can bench press 300 pounds.

"I don't take things for granted as much," said Mr. Gibson, explaining that he views shootings -- in movies or news of them in real life -- as much more horrible now.

"It's frustrating," he said. "It eats at me, but I've got too much to look forward to."

Mr. Gibson said he plans to study psychology and the Japanese language in college.

But he still says his hardest task is to understand the reasons for his shooting.

"Why me?," he asked.

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