'I still forgive him'
Paralyzed at 3 by a stray gunshot, Hub girl faces the man who fired it
By Jonathan Saltzman, Boston Globe Staff | April 14, 2006
The little girl said the word porch and then began sobbing loudly. After her mother comforted her, 5-year-old Kai Leigh Harriott looked up from her blue wheelchair in the hushed courtroom yesterday and faced the man who fired the stray gunshot that paralyzed her nearly three years ago.
'What you done to me was wrong," the dimpled girl with purple and yellow plastic ties in her braids said softly. 'But I still forgive him."
On a summer night in 2003, Anthony Warren of Hyde Park fired three gunshots into the air outside a three-decker in Dorchester to scare two women who lived on the first floor after an argument. One bullet severed the spine of Kai, then 3, who was sitting outside on her family's third-story porch with a sister, singing 'Down by the Bay" from the 'Barney" television show.
Yesterday, in emotionally wrenching victim-impact statements that left many spectators in tears, Kai and four members of her family told a Suffolk Superior Court judge that the shooting had changed their lives forever, but had also shown them the value of forgiveness.
'We're not victims here; we're victors," said Kai's mother, Tonya David, addressing the court.
Moments later, Warren, 29, a convicted felon who pleaded guilty yesterday to avoid a trial, approached Kai and her family and, in barely audible tones, apologized.
David recalled his words later. 'I'm sorry for what I've done to you and your family," she said Warren told her. 'I was known in the street for all the wrong reasons, and now I want to be known for the right reasons."
David shook his handcuffed right hand and embraced him.
Superior Court Judge Margot Botsford called the statements the most moving she had heard in 17 years on the bench. She sentenced Warren to 13 to 15 years in state prison, plus five years on probation, for multiple charges stemming from the shooting, including assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious injury.
The sentence was about half what prosecutors had sought and close to the recommendation of Warren's court-appointed lawyer.
Botsford said Warren, who had been convicted twice previously of assault and battery, had acted deliberately and recklessly when he pulled the revolver from his waistband and began firing shots. But he never intended to shoot the little girl, who is paralyzed from the waist down, she said. And Botsford was impressed by the 'profound" generosity and forgiveness of Kai's family and by Warren's apology, she said.
David Procopio, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, said the sentence was 'just, fair, and thoughtful."
Warren's court-appointed lawyer, Robert J. Zanello, did not return calls seeking comment.
The shooting of Kai Leigh Harriott is one of several recent cases in Boston in which young children, innocent bystanders, were killed or seriously wounded by errant gunshots in gang disputes or arguments that turned violent.
The victims include 10-year-old Trina Persad, who was killed by a shotgun blast in June 2002 in Roxbury's Jermaine Goffigan Park, named, ironically, for a 9-year-old boy killed eight years earlier in gang crossfire.
Like many violent crimes that ravage Boston neighborhoods, the shooting of Kai stemmed from a small, seemingly inconsequential dispute, prosecutors said yesterday.
Warren, his brother, Cedric Warren, and two friends got into an argument with two sisters who lived on the first floor of a Bowdoin Street building around 11 p.m., said Assistant District Attorney David Fredette.
Cedric Warren had been seething since the night before when a friend of the sisters had stared at him, and he decided to pay the sisters a visit. The four approached the house, where the sisters were on their front porch. When one of the sisters called police during the ensuing argument, Anthony Warren pulled out a revolver and fired three shots into the air that can be heard on the 911 tape.
Kai, an exuberant girl with an electric smile, was sitting on the porch with her sister, Aja David, and was struck in the back. Aja, now 17, grabbed Kai and rushed inside the house, where she realized that Kai had been hit.
Fighting back tears as she stood next to Kai's wheelchair, another sister, a brother, and their mother, Aja told the court that the shooting shattered her family.
'I realize that in life anything can happen to you," she said. 'Kai has been paralyzed. . . . But she is happy. She is happy. . . . She's stronger than me."
Their mother said Kai, who is in kindergarten at the Josiah Quincy School in Chinatown, has never complained about being in a wheelchair. She likes to go down a slide with her 12-year-old brother, Kani David, at a playground near their new home in Roxbury. She paints and plays video games.
But Tonya David cannot forget what her daughter has lost.
'Kai was not born unhealthy or in a wheelchair," she told the court. 'I can still remember the pitter-patter of her little feet."
David, who has since moved, knew that her old neighborhood had crime, she said, but she never dreamed that her children could have been in danger on the third floor of the three-decker. It was a 'serene" oasis, David said, from which she could see Quincy Bay and downtown Boston.
After Kai and her family rejoined the spectators in the courtroom, Warren walked over and apologized, saying that he, too, has a young daughter and she is precious, like Kai.
Then Tonya David asked court officers if she could shake his hand. They said she could. She did. And then she hugged him.