Warning: The following video (posted below) and story contains VERY GRAPHIC material. Viewer discretion is advised.
The images are shocking. The video is hard to watch.
Damian Padilla, PAAN’s East District Supervisor for the Youth Violence Reduction Partnership, did not want to leave anything to the imagination.
“My presentation is all about reality. It’s not what you see on HBO, Cinemax, or Showtime,” Damian told producers in the documentary “Gun Violence: A Survivor’s Story”. “I am showing you the up-close and personal, because I want young people to know once they leave this presentation that this can happen to anybody.”
In February 2009, Padilla was shot six times inside a local bar and severely injured – all over a can of beer. In the 20-minute documentary, filmed last year, Damian talked to a group of local at-risk teens about what led up to the shooting, and shared images of his horrific injuries and details of his grueling yearlong road to recovery.
“I tell them this is not a game. These guys don’t just want to hurt you out here anymore, they want to kill you,” Damian warned.
The presentation is part of the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network’s crisis intervention strategy. Damian has now shared his inspiring story of survival with several local schools, educators, community leaders, and youth organizations to aid in violence prevention, non-violent conflict resolution, and anger management.
Through his personal account, he also outlines the emotional, physical, and financial toll that gun violence takes on victims, families, and communities.
The Incident: “All of This Over a Can of Coors Light”
Damian says that on the night of the shooting he had just finished the evening shift of his part-time job and stopped by his family-owned bar as he had done many times before. The bartender on duty just announced that they were closing and were no longer serving drinks for the night when a man approached the counter.
According to Damian, a man and another woman got into an argument with the bartender after she refused to serve them anymore drinks. Damian intervened and that’s when the gunman reached over the bar and shot him six times in his upper body.
“He reached over and gave me all six. He didn’t care…six times for a $1.50…all of this over a can of Coors Light,” Damian said.
The entire incident took place in less than 5 minutes.
Damian says he did not know the gunman.
His Injuries: “I Was Actually Pronounced Dead for 17 Minutes”
“Bullets travel all over your body,” Damian explained. “So that one bullet that hits you can hit various parts of your body. The bullet that struck my shoulder came out of my lower backside.”
Damian spent 6 ½ months in a coma and a year in the hospital.
“I lost my left lung, a portion of my stomach and large intestine, and I wore a colostomy bag for a year and three months. I had to learn how to walk again because I had been in the hospital so long that I could no longer walk,” Damian told students.
“I actually was pronounced dead for 17 minutes and the doctors worked on me and God came down and touched me. I am standing here through the grace of God,” he said.
Damian is not out of the woods yet. Nearly seven years later, he still takes several medications for conditions he developed after he was injured. He will also have to undergo more surgical procedures to maintain his new normal.
WATCH “Gun Violence: A Survivor’s Story”:
From Skyward Productions – Executive Producers: PAAN, Janice McDuffy, and Tobi Gadison
Gun Violence Affects Everyone
In 2014, out of the 248 people murdered in Philadelphia, 206 were killed by gun violence; 1,047 people were victims of shootings, 47 percent of them were young people between the ages of 11 and 24, according to the Philadelphia Police Department .
(Pictured: A recent fatal shooting in West Philadelphia, story here.)
The consequences of gun violence not only affect the victim but also those that have been indirectly traumatized.
“It affected my family members. It affected the community I live in. It affected my children. I don’t want anybody to go through what I went through, it was a very hard time,” Damian said.
Young offenders involved in gun violence, gangs and drugs lose out on promising futures, their families, and freedom.
“This is the message that we have to hit home. A simple argument can led to you spending the rest of your life in jail. It’s that simple,” Damian said. “We don’t want to make these kids scared or afraid to have fun or go outside but they need to be aware of their surroundings and people they hang with and speak up when something isn’t right.”
The man who shot Damian was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Why We’re Here
We have several programs dedicated to empowering young people ages 14 to 24 who are at risk of killing or being killed. We provide life skill courses, education classes, mentoring programs, and personal development sessions. In conjunction with law enforcement, we also work to provide training and assistance for educators, parents, and people who care about their communities.
Most important, it is our goal to provide a safe haven for young people to report threats of violence, incidents or to get help before it’s too late.
In the video, as Damian opened up about his ordeal several participants began to share there personal stories with gun violence. His message hit home for many of the participants.
“After my presentation they come up to me and they thank me. One young lady jumped on my shoulders and she started crying because her brother is out in the streets and she can actually see her brother getting shot one of these days,” Damian said. “We are not God. We can’t save everybody. We can assist to save people. I tell them I’ve been 13 but you’ve never been 41, take heed to this message and do what I am telling you.”
For more information or if you would like to have this workshop presented to your school or organization contact us here.
Our Team, Our Youth & Gun Violence: In Their Own Words
“We are dealing with hardcore criminals, guys who get shot at and guys who shoot at people every day. You gotta want to do this job to really be affective to this community. If you wake up and go ‘oh let me just get out here and do this and go home’, then you are not effective. You are not saving that person.” – Damian Padilla, East District Supervisor for YVRP, has served at PAAN for more than 25 years. (“Gun Violence: A Survivor’s Story“)
“It actually shows you that TV really doesn’t show you the reality of the situation. The most of amazing thing out of this is that he did not want to seek revenge he wanted to go to work to make a living for his family. In my opinion that’s a real man.” – Youth Participant pictured to the right in blue t-shirt, (“Gun Violence: A Survivor’s Story“)
“My dog kept barking and he said ‘shut that dog up or I will shoot you’.” – Youth participant talks about her experience during a home invasion. (“Gun Violence: A Survivor’s Story“)
“People are always talking about how they want the city to be better, ways for us to progress but you can’t make it better unless you do the things that will take away gun violence.” – Youth Participant (“Gun Violence: A Survivor’s Story“)