A young man badly injured when he was hit by a stray bullet is getting some help from Shaq and some other friends… help that’s getting the boy a new home that’ll allow his family to take better care of him.
Twelve year-old Isaiah Payton was struck by a bullet fired near the crowd leaving a high school football game back in August in the Atlanta area. Two boys were struck by random shots as they left the game. The other boy, 15 year-old Damean Spear, was struck in the leg. He was treated and released from a local hospital.
Payton was hit in the back and the bullet damaged his spine. He’s now paralyzed from the chest down. Doctors say he will require long-term disability care as a result of his injuries. Needless to say, Payton’s life – and his familes life – has been changed forever.
The shooting made big headlines in the Atlanta area. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said, “This was a reckless, heartless and cowardly act of violence that forever changed the life of a 12-year-old child and his family and deeply affected another juvenile.”
O’Neal also heard of the shooting and was moved to do something about it. Shaq has a home in the Atlanta area and lives there during the NBA season so he can be close to the studios of TNT network television, where he works. When he heard young Isaiah couldn’t be released from the hospital because his home was not properly equipped, he stepped in to help.
In an interview with an Atlanta TV station, Shaq said, “I reached out to the family because I wanted to see the son and I said he’s not going to release the sign until she’s (the boy’s mother would be) able to move on the first floor. So, we found her a house. I’m going to pay her rent for the year and I’m going to give her some furniture and it’s sad because her son is paralyzed from the chest down and no mother should have to go to that.
O’Neal has spoken out on gun violence in the past, and he often speaks on safety issues for children. Shaq visited the boy in the hospital. “I was watching the story and it’s just sad,” O’Neal said. “It could have been any one of us. It could have been my son. It could’ve been your cousin and she was living in a one-bedroom apartment with her two boys so we found her a house in College Park. Nice area. I’m going to get her some Ring cameras on me. We’re going to give her some furniture, TVs and pay her rent off for a year and help her get on her feet.”
Some of Shaq’s friends and business associates are also stepping up to help. Rob Lynch, the CEO of Papa John’s Pizza and Jeff Smith, the chairman of the board, are also donating to the project.
In addition, a GoFundMe account has been created to help raise funds for Isaiah Payton. (You can click the link to make a donation.)