As a bagger and stocker at the Piggly Wiggly on River Road, Deonn Carter developed a special bond with firefighters and police officers who shop there regularly.
“When you go in there, he knows everybody in the fire department. He knows your rank. He knows what station you’re at. He knows what squad you work on,” said Sgt. Richard Barfield, who works at Fire Station 6 on Brown Avenue. “He’s the same way with the police department. He knows everybody.”
Carter, a 31-year-old man with autism, was shot Tuesday night at the Parkside at Britt David apartment complex in Columbus. When Columbus emergency service personnel responded to the 911 call, they were shocked to learn that the victim was a friend, and they responded as if he was one of their own, said his mother, Suzette Ragland.
“At first they knew it was a Deonn, but they didn’t know it was my Deonn,” said Ragland. “And when they got there...they went working on him right away. Every police officer that was in the general vicinity was here.”
Ragland said everyone that could fit in the ambulance traveled with Carter to Midtown Medical Center, and police escorted the ambulance straight to the hospital, where there was a team waiting to work on him. She said Carter underwent an operation from midnight Tuesday to about 5 or 6 a.m. Wednesday. He remains in stable condition, she said, but he will have another operation on Friday. Physicians are trying to save his leg.
Ragland said police officers returned to the hospital Wednesday morning with cards, balloons and candy for Carter.
“It seemed like it eased his pain because he was definitely in pain,” she said. “He was just ecstatic that they came.”
Some of Carter’s friends also set up a GoFundMe page on his behalf. They had raised $3,625 of the $2,000 goal by Wednesday night.
Ragland said Carter became friends with many police officers not only as an employee at Piggly Wiggly, but also because of her job in the county's Tax Assessor’s Office.
“Most of the police officers know him because I’ve been working with the city for 26 years,” she said. “He just went to work with me some days, and he’s always had a love for firemen and policemen.”
Ragland said her son always dreamed of being a policeman or firefighter, but he never achieved those goals because of Autism. Still, he’s highly functional, she said.
Columbus Police Sgt. Art Sheldon said authorities were called to the apartment complex at 5443 Armour Road around 9:28 p.m. Tuesday to investigate the reported shooting, but they have yet to make any arrests. No additional information concerning the incident was available, he said Wednesday morning.
Ragland said the incident occurred after her son went outside to get the mail.
“He said, “Mama, I’ll be right back,’” she said. “...And I said, ‘Make sure you come back, because I don’t want you out there late at night.’”
She said her biggest concern was coyotes that had been in the area, not crime.
“We have stayed in this apartment complex for five years and we’ve never had any major problems.” she said. “...We’ve had a few break-ins with cars. We figured it was teenagers or whatever. Even then there wasn’t anything majorly destroyed.”
A little later, a neighbor told her that her son was in the street holding his leg, and a friend said he had heard gunshots.
Ragland said she learned later that Carter was shot during a robbery, but she doesn’t know who would do that to her son.
“They took his phone, and he was running from the person,” she said. “He had on flip flops, and ended up falling, so they shot him in the leg.”
Lt. Jeremy Lawrence, of Station 8 on Whitesville Road, said his engine was the first to arrive after police got there, and he was among those who attended to Carter’s injuries.
“We give everybody the same patient care,” he said. “But you could tell it was more personal than a lot of the calls that we go on.
“He calls up to the station about once a week and just talks to everybody,” he said. “He just asks how we’re doing and wants to find out what we’re up to.”
Lawrence said he doesn’t know why anyone would shoot someone who has been so kind to so many people.
“Deonn is such a great guy,” he said. “He never would hurt anybody. He’s always been just nice, keeping to himself. I just don’t know how anybody could be that cold to do something to somebody like Deonn.”
To donate to the GoFundMe campaign, go to: https://www.gofundme.com/2j243qtw