- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 27, 2011

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — A California man was charged on Tuesday with attempted murder in the shooting of an Afghanistan War veteran — who had survived a suicide bomb attack over there — during a homecoming party in what authorities said was a fight over football teams.

But the attorney for 19-year-old Ruben Ray Jurado said his client was apparently under attack when shots were fired at Spc. Christopher Sullivan at the party to welcome him home for the holidays.

Prosecutors in San Bernardino County on Tuesday charged Mr. Jurado, who surrendered himself to authorities a day earlier for investigation in the shooting that critically wounded the 22-year-old Purple Heart recipient.

Authorities said Mr. Jurado, who had played football with Spc. Sullivan in high school, began arguing with brother Brandon Sullivan over football teams at the party Friday night and then punched him. Spc. Sullivan intervened, and Mr. Jurado pulled a gun and fired multiple shots, hitting the war veteran in the neck, police said.

Spc. Sullivan remains in critical condition. His relatives say the gunfire shattered his spine and left him paralyzed from the neck down.

Suzanne Sullivan holds a photo and dog tag of her son Christopher Sullivan, an Army soldier, at her home in San Bernardino, Calif. Mr. Sullivan, who survived a suicide bombing last December while serving in Afghanistan, is now in critical condition after a gunman shot him during his homecoming party in San Bernardino on Friday. Police arrested Ruben Ray Jurado on Monday in connection with the shooting that critically wounded Mr. Sullivan. (Associated Press)
Suzanne Sullivan holds a photo and dog tag of her son Christopher ... more >

“He’s opening his eyes more,” Brandon Sullivan told the Associated Press. “We’re just waiting day by day.”

Spc. Sullivan was wounded in a suicide-bombing attack last year in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province while serving with the 101st Infantry Division. He suffered a cracked collarbone and brain damage in the attack and had been recovering in Kentucky, where he is stationed, before coming home for the holiday season.

Defense attorney Michael J. Holmes said earlier Tuesday that he wanted to talk to his client and the district attorney before commenting further on the case.

“It appears that he was being attacked, and he was on the ground and was being kicked in the back, stomach, the head, and that is consistent with the injuries that I observed,” Mr. Holmes said. “It is alleged at that point that Mr. Sullivan was shot.”

Spc. Sullivan was an avid wrestler and football player in high school in San Bernardino, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles. He had nine months to go in the military and then planned to become a firefighter or police officer.

Fabian Salazar, a soldier who served alongside Spc. Sullivan in Afghanistan, said his comrade rushed back to try to rescue other soldiers after the bomb blast propelled him several feet, leaving him dizzy and disoriented.

“I know he would take a bullet for his brother,” Mr. Salazar told the Los Angeles Times. “And if you asked him again after all this … if he would take a bullet for him again, he would say yes. That’s the type of person he is.”

Brandon Sullivan spoke similarly about his brother’s altruism and generosity of heart.

“Say there was a person at school who never had friends or nothing — Chris would be the person who would go up to him and try to be his friend. He didn’t like people to feel alone,” Brandon Sullivan said. “He always had a smile on his face.”

Mother Suzanne Sullivan told the San Bernardino Sun that she is relieved that Mr. Jurado had turned himself in.

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