CHICAGO (CBS) — An 8-year-old boy paralyzed from the waist down in gang crossfire says he wants to see an end to the violence, but he’s not letting his injury slow him down — on the basketball court or off.
“I get to have fun,” Martrell Stevens says when asked about his wheelchair basketball team.
Sports remains important in Martrell’s life, more than three years after he was caught in gang crossfire and a bullet struck his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. He also loves softball and spends lots of time exploring the Internet on his computer.
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“It’s been difficult the whole three years to try to keep him motivated, to keep him going on,” says his mother, Lakeesha Rucker. “And there’s been no justice served.”
The hurt in Rucker’s voice is as plain as the smile Martrell flashes — one that can melt the hardest heart. She falters when she says that no one has even been arrested in the shooting of her son.
Activist Andrew Holmes, the executive director of the group “No Guns, No Violence,” said he hopes to take Martrell’s focus off of his injury and channel his energy into computers.
“First of all, he’s still learning. He’s still scared,” Holmes said, but said computers are an area in which Martrell need not take a back seat to anyone and opens many possibilities that did not exist even a few years ago.
Rucker says there are still days when Martrell asks if he will ever play football the way other children do. But on the basketball court he’s smiling, taking a couple of dribbles as he propels his chair upcourt.
To those who shoot indiscriminately on the streets outside his home, Martrell says this: “You can play on my wheelchair basketball team, too.”