A neighbor's carelessness nearly cost Mark Henry his son Caleb's life. Yet 17 days after an accidental shooting inside a neighbor's home, both Henry and the 11-year-old victim say forgiveness is the best way to move forward.
“I told him we love him. We'll get through it,” Henry said. “At the end of the day Caleb is still here.”
“He's a friend. It was an accident,” said Caleb.
Henry said his neighbor, a badly wounded Iraq War veteran, was so distraught he discussed taking his own life. But discussing the tragedy with Caleb and his father was a step toward healing for everyone involved.
“I helped him get counseling,” Henry said.
The family spoke to reporters for the first time in the wake of the shooting as a parade of Prince George's County Police officers led by Chief Hank Stawinski brought early Christmas gifts to check up on Caleb.
“We were worried about you,” Stawinski told the boy.
The man responsible for the shooting has not been identified by police because he was not charged. He is a 32-year-old veteran wounded in Iraq who is just married and has a new child of his own, Henry said.
Caleb's father described the circumstances of the shooting the evening of December 6th. Caleb was at the neighbor's home, while his mother was next door.
The man was handling a pistol with Caleb nearby as he was cataloguing items on a computer for a new insurance policy.
The handgun had not been touched for at least two years and apparently had been left with one bullet still in its chamber.
How the gun went off is a mystery, according to Caleb's father.
His son had been shot in the chest. The bullet nicked the boy's heart.
The stunned neighbor grabbed Caleb, and with his mother, they drove in the man's SUV to the nearby medical center at Joint Base Andrews.
It was a move that Henry believes saved Caleb's life. Military doctors slowed the bleeding long enough to get Caleb transferred by helicopter to Washington's Children's National Medical Center. Caleb barely survived the surgery and then a blood clot went to his brain and nearly killed him. He was flown to Johns Hopkins Children's Hospital in Baltimore for emergency treatment of the clot.
Remarkably, Caleb is now home and able to walk and play video games. He says he is not in pain.
Caleb's father is a former combat engineer who cleared minefields in Bosnia and Iraq. He recognizes that his neighbor's carelessness almost cost Caleb his life. But Mark Henry said he also understands the incident was an accident and his neighbor, a fellow combat veteran, is suffering, too.
Henry allowed his neighbor to visit Caleb shortly after he regained consciousness, and the emotional healing began as the two discussed the circumstances and their feelings.