Thursday, March 11, 2010
Doctors say 16-year-old Dawson Baker is one of the lucky ones. The Wichita teenager narrowly survived a close-range gunshot to his face on Tuesday night.
"It entered his right cheek, went through his throat, and lodged in his right chest," Baker's mother, Angie Lee, tells KAKE News. "It missed his carotid [artery] and his lungs, which the doctor says makes him a very, very lucky young man."
Lee was on a business trip in Florida when she got the call. She was on the next flight back to Wichita, and hasn't left her son's hospital room since.
Baker can't speak because of a tube in his throat, but he's conscious and - true to his teenage resourcefulness - has found a way to communicate.
"He uses his phone to text message," Lee says.
Thursday, prosecutors filed juvenile charges against a 17-year-old boy. The charges include aggravated battery, a felony.
Investigators call the shooting a tragic and preventable accident.
It began Tuesday evening when police responded to a 911 call from the Wal-Mart at Pawnee and Broadway in South Wichita. Baker had walked in, bleeding and in pain.
Investigators soon learned Baker was shot at a nearby apartment complex, roughly one mile west. He was driven to the Wal-Mart by a friend who knew he needed help.
Police say Baker and several friends had gathered for a game of cards at the apartment. They say a 17-year-old found a gun and - thinking it was unloaded - pointed it at Baker, pulling the trigger.
The gun fired.
Lee says her son also tells her it was an accident.
Lee says she's heard rumors the shooting involved drugs or gangs, accusations she says are inaccurate.
"It was friends together playing cards, and somebody made a very bad decision," Lee says. "I'm just heartbroken that these kids can get these guns and heartbroken that they can make these reckless decisions."
Heartbroken, but not angry. Since the shooting, Lee says her son has received an outpouring of support; even a "Get Well" card from a Wal-Mart employee simply addressed: "To the boy who came in shot at Pawnee & Broadway."
"I just can't express my gratitude to everyone there in getting him the help he needed," Lee says.
As for the teen accused of shooting her son, "I feel sorry for him," Lee says. "He'll probably do some time, but if anybody can learn anything from this... Nobody should ever point a gun at anybody, loaded or unloaded."
Lee says all the boys involved will have to live with the memory of what happened Tuesday night. Lee says she's spoken with the mother of at least one other teen at the card game, and that all are invited to visit Baker in the hospital.
Finding room may be hard, though. Between family members and other friends, Baker has plenty of visitors.
Baker is expected to spend several weeks at Via Christi St. Francis Hospital. Lee says doctors still must determine if her son's jaw will need reconstructive surgery.
"He'll have some scars, but I think for the most part he'll be just fine," Lee says. "He's a very nice looking young man. He'll return to that."