‘Could’ve been my son:’ Shaquille O’Neal buys home for 12-year-old boy paralyzed in shooting

Shaquille O'Neal (Getty Images)

ATLANTA — An Atlanta boy paralyzed in a shooting will soon live in a new home that is accessible to him thanks to basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal.

Isaiah Payton, 12, and Damean Spear, 15, were shot on Oct. 17 after a high school football game, the Atlanta Police Department said. The shooting was a result of an escalated argument and Isaiah and Damean were not the intended targets, according to police.

Damean was shot in the leg and was treated and released, but Isaiah was paralyzed from the chest down by his gunshot wound and will require long-term care as a result of his injuries, police 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,” said Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields.

O’Neal, who advocates against gun violence, found out that Payton, still hospitalized, could not be released until his family could move to the first floor of their apartment building, according to CNN affiliate WXIA.

“I was watching the story and it’s just sad. 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,” O’Neal told WXIA.

But O’Neal didn’t stop there.

“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,” he said.

Papa John’s CEO Rob Lynch and Jeff Smith, the chairman of the Papa John’s board, helped with the home purchase. The Atlanta Fire Department was providing Isaiah’s mother with a budget for a year, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was contributing as well.

On Oct. 15, Atlanta police announced the arrest of a 15-year-old in the case and charged him with aggravated assault. Investigators said it was believed there was more than one shooter involved. An investigation was ongoing.

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