The nine Utahns we talked to learned this firsthand. Several truly cheated death; others still suffer pain or have lost use of vital body parts. Most struggle with anguish but seem to have come away with a renewed sense of purpose. If you have survived being shot, comment below to leave your own accounts, see video interviews with victims, and find organizations dedicated to helping shooting victims.
An Eye for an Eye: LeRoy Heaton
LeRoy Heaton, 84, doesn’t like people sitting on his left side; he gets anxious when he can’t see them. He shares that with his deceased father—both lost their left eyes at a young age. On December 24, 1939, at 14 years old, he found an old .22 rifle in the attic of his family home in Kanab. Heaton was enamored with it, so he cleaned and oiled the firearm, but his older brother, knowing the danger of old guns, tested it by firing three rounds behind a tree for protection before letting Heaton use it. Taking the gun inside to fetch more bullets, Heaton loaded it in the kitchen; as he closed the gun, the bullet exploded before it was locked.
“Don’t Say a Word”: LaDawn Prue
As 18-year-old LaDawn Prue returned home after work at a Marie Callender’s restaurant on Christmas Eve, 1982, a masked Kenneth Roberts stepped from behind a tree, holding a gun. Placing it against Prue’s head, he said, “Don’t say a word, or I’ll kill you.” Prue says she received “a pure sense of clarity. There was no fear, no trembling.”
She warns that her feelings about why she was spared sound churchy: “I was always taught that God knew me as an individual. That night, for the first time, I knew it was true. He was with me, and I felt like I was let in on the decision whether to take me home or leave me here. There were obviously things this challenge was supposed to teach me.”
She’s been Miss Wheelchair Utah, a crime victim’s reparation lobbyist, an inspirational speaker and a cruise tour guide. She currently owns an import retail business, Moose B Haven, and sees her future dream job as consulting for handicapped accessibility. Snowmobiling, jet skiing and four wheeling are partly her zest for life and partly “just me rebelling against being the stereotypical crippled girl.” People tell her, “You’re too pretty to be in that wheelchair.” When asked what life would be like without the attack, Prue says, “For all I know, I could be homeless, living in a cardboard box. Life could be so much worse.” (Carolyn Campbell)
Update: Where are all the shooters now?
A Splinter in
Your Eye: Dave Acosta
Officer Dave Acosta was a fairly new SWAT officer when he left Provo to take a job with the Las Vegas Police Department. On an eventful day in 1994, he squared off twice with a suicidal, meth-induced suspect: once while the suspect was walking around with a shotgun in North Las Vegas, and again later that night outside the hospital where they had both been admitted.
The pellet pierced his left eyeball, left of the retina, but because of the angle, had just punctured and deflated his eye, causing swelling. Doctors told Acosta it was a one in a million chance of not losing his eye or being potentially fatal. As Acosta sat in the hospital, retelling the story to his best friend at 2 a.m., he saw the suspect walk past his room and down the hall. “He was still on meth and was swiping at people with a scalpel he’d stolen. Then [the suspect] ran outside.” So, Acosta ran after him, barely clothed and eye pulsating, and caught up to him outside and squared off, 20 feet away. The suspect began approaching Acosta, who pulled the hammer of his gun, which stopped the suspect. As backup rushed forward, the suspect got on the ground and threw his scalpel to the side.
Now, Acosta teaches officer training with the mentality “Always Win”—as was the case that evening. His eye has mostly recovered. (AD)