Student shot after graduation leaves hospital

June 18, 2008 4:07:30 PM PDT
18-year-old Khiry Caldwell says he is "happy to be alive."

Caldwell left Temple Hospital this afternoon in a wheelchair pushed by his grateful parents.

Caldwell was lucky, because he survived being shot in the back Tuesday afternoon outsite Temple University's Liacouras Center, site of his graduation from Strawberry Mansion High School. A bullet missed his spine and all major organs.

"I feel fine," the teen said, refusing to answer a question about the shooting. He said he is looking forward to "relaxing with family", and is "very excited" about the chance to play basketball someday for Shaw University in North Carolina.

Doctors say Caldwell is recovering from a cracked rib and a bruised lung.

Caldwell missed today's festivities at his alma mater, including the traditional class barbecue and yearbook signing the day after the graduation ceremony on Temple University's campus.

Khiry Caldwell was shot in the back moments after the diplomas were passed out. He was an innocent bystander during a scuffle outside the Liacouras Center that is still being investigated by police.

As Khiry Caldwell's parents waited for his release from the hospital, they told reporters how the lucky they felt because the bullet lodged not far from the college bound Caldwell's heart.

Doctors say Caldwell is recovering from a cracked rib and a bruised lung.

"The bullet is still in him. They're going to leave it?it's not in a place where it's going to move and if it does, it's not going to do any damage," Kathy Caldwell, Khiry's mother, said.

Caldwell was among the 117 Strawberry Mansion High School seniors who were being graduated during commencement exercises at the Liacouras Center. At around 4:19 p.m. Tuesday the graduates, their families, teachers and administrators were leaving the center when police say a fight started outside. Temple University Police were attempting to break up the ruckus when shots rang out, and Caldwell was shot in the back.

Amin Caldwell, Khiry's father, says his son was an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire. "Here we had a graduation, my son's graduation," Amin told Action News. Caldwell's dad told Action News that his son was taking pictures when he was shot.

As for how the fight started, Philadelphia Police Captain Laurence Nordiff told Action News, "We believe the fight is a result of an ongoing dispute between two groups of Strawberry Mansion students."

Commissioner Chuck Ramsey added, "Some of these guys, I mean, they're thugs. They don't care and they're going to do what they're going to do, so that's how bad it's getting out here."

The victim's father, a youth worker for the city's town watch umbrella group, sums it up this way: "These senseless shootings, this senseless violence for nothing... This is crazy. It has to stop." The shooting was "ramdom," according to Caldwell. He said his son is upbeat and asked for a cheesesteak.

Philadelphia Police have questioned several students in connection with the shooting. So far, no arrests have been reported.