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DC teen dies after being shot 4 times in 4 years. His trauma surgeon says he's not the only one

Corey Riggins, Jr., 19, was shot and killed in November. Those weren't his first bullet wounds.

WASHINGTON — Corey Riggins, Jr., 19, was shot on three separate occasions before a fourth shooting in D.C. killed him.

This last incident happened on Sunday, Nov. 27, in Southeast D.C., according to D.C. Police.

"I will miss him," Riggins' mom, Carla Lawson, said. He's the third oldest of her four sons. She describes him as strong-minded, helpful, and a good person -- always friendly with their neighbors in D.C.

She said he was first shot when he was 15 years old.

His trauma surgeon then, Dr. Babak Sarani, said that the bullet pierced his heart, liver, and stomach.

“He cardiac arrested on me three times, which is why I remember him," Dr. Sarani said.

He serves as the Chief of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery at George Washington University Hospital.

Lawson said she was living in Ohio during that first shooting.

Dr. Sarani remembers Riggins' father, Corey Riggins Sr., sleeping on the floor of his son's hospital room -- joining the doctor in his urges to accept help.


“What I told Corey was, look, if you get injured again this badly, there's a huge chance you're going to die. And he understood that, and he would cry and cry. He understood that," Dr. Sarani said.

He said he asked the hospital's injury prevention team to put in extra effort to help Riggins.

He said he and his dad worked to connect him with city resources to get him help, but he resisted.

"I'm not blaming him, I understand. He's a teenager, friends, social network, I get it," Dr. Sarani said. "But at the end of the day, he found himself in a situation that he couldn't pull himself out of, and I think he knew. In fact, I know he knew that he was in a bad place."

He said Riggins left an impression on him, and he still carries around a picture of the two of them hugging at a trauma survivors' reunion event.

Over the next four years, he would be shot a total of four times, adding hand and elbow injuries to his previous scars.

“I was really sad, but I wasn't surprised at all," Dr. Sarani said. "And the fact that I wasn't surprised made me even more sad."

He said that GW and other trauma centers recently studied how often people are shot multiple times.

“The good news is the Corey Riggins story is somewhat rare," he said. "The bad news is it is not zero. It's nowhere near zero. It's 7%.”

He said the study is currently under review.

Dr. Sarani said he was surprised to see those numbers even that low -- especially with the increase in gun violence patients he's seen since he started at GW 11 years ago.

"Our gun violence volume is on the order of 20 to 25%. Mind you, we started at 8%. So over the last 11 years, we've seen a tripling of the number of volume patients," he said.

He believes physicians play an important role in curbing the gun violence epidemic.

Each of D.C.'s hospitals has a violence intervention team working to prevent stories like Riggins' from repeating.

He just wants to see the city focus more energy on these current intervention programs because he thinks they work.

They at least work for some, if not for Riggins.

Now, Riggins' mom is planning a funeral, missing him every day.

“I keep praying and crying," Lawson said. "Hugs and condolences is wonderful, and people are giving words of encouragement, whether it be a meal or a dollar."

She said he attended Ballou STAY High School and played basketball and football.

She said her other sons have escaped being shot, but "there are a lot more Coreys out there."

She said the city needs to invest more in resources for 18 to 24-year-olds because they don't have activities tied to school and may not be attending college.

“It’s ugly in D.C. with the homicides, and if I could have $50,000, I would match D.C. and make someone come up and say I did see something," Lawson said.

Riggins' funeral is set for Saturday, Dec. 17.

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