(PHILADELPHIA) — The father of a 13-year-old boy who was wounded in a Fourth of July weekend mass shooting in Philadelphia said his son’s best friend, 15-year-old Daujan Brown, lost his life trying to protect his child.
In an emotional interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Rafiq Fitzgerald Sr. said he will be forever grateful that Brown was there on Monday to shield his son from the barrage of bullets police said were fired indiscriminately at victims by a masked gunman wielding an AR-15 ghost gun.
Brown was the youngest of the five people killed in the rampage that broke out at 8:30 p.m. ET in the Kingsessing neighborhood of Philadelphia. In addition to Fitzgerald’s son, a 2-year-old child also suffered gunshot wounds and the toddler’s 33-year-old mother and twin brother were injured by flying glass when the gunman fired at their vehicle, according to police.
Fitzgerald said his son, who suffered gunshot wounds to his legs in the massacre, was a constant companion to Brown, saying the two boys stuck together “like glue.”
“As a parent, you don’t want your child around certain people. [Brown] wasn’t one of those types of kids. In my eyes, I’m glad I never kept him away from my son because he was a hero, if you asked me. He died trying to protect his best friend,” Fitzgerald said. “In my eyes, Daujaun is like Superman. I’m so grateful for him.”
Fitzgerald said he had heard about the mass shooting while he was at work and received a call when he got home from his son’s mother that confirmed his “worst fears.”
“Just as soon as I seen her call, honestly, my heart dropped. Before I even answered the phone … a million things were running through my head,” said Fitzgerald, holding back tears.
He said he immediately rushed to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, moving so quickly he arrived with mismatched shoes on.
Fitzgerald said hospital staff initially confused him with being Brown’s father and a security guard told him his son had passed. Fitzgerald said he nearly fainted at the news and was directed to a room, where he watched Brown’s grieving relatives crying through a window before learning his son, whom he did not want to identify by name because of safety concerns, actually survived due to Brown’s heroics.
He said the two friends were out in the Kingsessing neighborhood enjoying the extended Independence Day weekend when the shooting unfolded. He said the two boys had gone to a corner store to buy drinks and when they emerged, they encountered the gunman, alleged to be 40-year-old Kimbrady Carriker, who police said was wearing a body armor.
“He shot my son first and he fell. His friend was trying to help him and when the gunman saw his friend trying to help him, he shot at him,” Fitzgerald said. “My son said he rolled under a car and he thought his friend was playing dead.”
Fitzgerald said his son didn’t realize Brown had been killed while protecting him until he got out of surgery to insert rods and pins in his legs.
“Imagine your best friend losing his life trying to help you and you see him. How could you cope with that at a young age? He’s just now going through puberty. He’s going to need a lot of counseling,” Fitzgerald said of his child. “There’s not even enough justice that could really repay for this. My son lost his friend forever. He’s mentally never going to be right.”
Fitzgerald said his son, who is 6-foot-3 inches tall, had been a promising athlete with dreams of playing sports in high school and beyond. He said his child now must endure three to six months of physical therapy before he can even walk again.
“He was trying to stand up yesterday, but the pain was unbearable,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said his one message to city leaders is “do something” to stop gun violence from claiming the lives of innocent children.
“I don’t want them doing a press conference to talk about what they’re going to do. We want to see it,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald noted that the location of where his son was shot is near a police precinct.
“He lost his friend over nonsense gun violence and stuff that could have been prevented,” Fitzgerald said. “This stuff shouldn’t be happening. Kids shouldn’t be getting shot, babies shouldn’t be getting killed.”
Asked how he is holding up emotionally, Fitzgerald said, “I’m not healing.”
“As a father, as a man, you’re a provider and a protector. So now I feel like I let my son down,” Fitzgerald said. “My son said that after he got shot, he was yelling for me and his mom.”
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