16-year-old shot at high school football game shares her story of survival, prepares to return to school
Ashley Parker spent the early evening hours of September 27, 2019 making Tik Tok videos for social media, putting on makeup and just hanging out with her friends.
"We wanted to look so cute," she explains, "we got our makeup and our hair done. We picked each other’s outfits and we were just going crazy because we wanted to look cute take pictures."
It was only ten days after she and her twin sister Melissa celebrated their sweet 16. There were 8 girls in the group that night and they decided to go to the Deanza Pinole football game. It was a big rivalry game and even though Ashley didn't go to either school, her father Rich Parker says they had a lot of friends who did.
"The church we go to," explains Parker, "there are different boys that go to different schools so they are cheering on the friends from Deanza and Pinole Valley and some of the girlfriends from church are cheerleaders."
Ashley says she remembers fights at that rivalry game both on the field and in the stands, but she says everyone was still in a good mood when they left.
"We were trying to get guys numbers," she says laughing. She doesn't remember the fight that broke out across the street. She doesn't remember hearing the shots being fired. She doesn't remember getting shot.
But Ashley's parents can't forget. Her father heard the gunshots from his dining room. "At least 10 or 11 and when I heard them I started praying and just said lord I hope everything is okay. I think another forty seconds later my other daughter, the twin, Melissa called crying that Ashley got shot."
Three teenagers, all innocent bystanders, were shot in the hail of gunfire that night, Ashley's parents raced to the scene but couldn't get to her.
Police wouldn't let them into the scene. Her mother Theresa Parker says she "saw my daughter lying down and I wanted to go hold her and they stopped me and pushed me away."
But Ashley wasn't alone, the mother of one of her friends had arrived at the game to take girls home and when the shooting stopped she was able to race to ashley's side and just hold her
She told us, "I remember sitting on the ground thinking this can't be real, this is not real. It was an out of body experience."
Ashley wasn't responsive and firefighters had to bring her back. Paramedics would lose her again in the ambulance and one more time during surgery. Her mother says doctors told her they were ready to call time of death but Ashley was stubborn and held on. Ashley says she has one brief memory of "coughing on the surgery table," before everything went black again.
She survived surgery but her prognosis was grim. The bullet went through her arm, punctured her lung and lodged in her spine and doctors said they had no choice but to leave it there. They put Ashley on life support and told her parents to prepare for the worst.
"She said I'm sorry." explains Ashley's mother, "and I said no, no, and she said I'm sorry we did everything we can but there is nothing else we can do, and I said no I want to see her."
For hours and then days Ashley was unresponsive, and even when she finally opened her eyes still couldn't communicate.
"I couldn't talk I wasn't able to talk for a week," explains Ashley, "I would bang my arms or squeeze my hands. I was so confused and I was frustrated because no one would tell me what happened to me."
It was like that for days with doctors telling Ashley parents she would likely have brain damage.
She proved them wrong when one day she called out her mother's name.
"I ran really fast," says Theresa Parker, "and she said mom, mom, mom repeating and my sister, my sister, my sister."
Instead of the expected two months in intensive care, Ashley spent 19 days there before being transferred to UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in Oakland.
She is paralyzed from the chest down but she will tell you she's lucky.
"I told my mom one day, I am glad I just lost the feeling in my legs because if I lost my mind that would be crushing," Ashley explains.
They spent Christmas in the hospital, but 2020 was about coming home.
It's a new normal for the girl who loved to play sports, and dance with her friends.
She has a new room in her house, because her old one is upstairs and too hard to get to with her wheel chair.
"It's a big difference." admits Ashley, "whoa its different but I'm fine with it because there is still a lot of stuff I can do."
But she has a smile, and an optimism that gives those around her hope.
Three people were arrested for the shooting but her mom says she doesn't focus on them.
"I prayed and I don't have anger in my heart because I said lord save my daughter," says Ashley's mother, "I don't who care who shot her. It's not (their) intention to shoot her it just happened. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
They focus instead on the firefighters who helped save her life, on the strangers they now consider family, and on this 16-year-old girl who still loves sitting on her bed giggling with her friends and who doesn't waste time on what if.
"It's like I am so grateful that I am here today and no brain damage and I think people just need to focus on the positive because if you keep focusing on what could have happened then you aren’t' going to get anywhere in life."
Ashley is getting ready to go back to school at El Sobrante Christian School. The community is also trying to get the family some much needed help. Ashley's mother was the breadwinner of the family but had to leave her job to care for Ashley. The family also needs a long term housing solution that works with Ashley's health needs.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help. Donations can also be made to Wells Fargo in c/o Ashley Parker, account number 8268081687.