- Associated Press - Saturday, August 9, 2014

NEWARK, Ohio (AP) - A central Ohio father of five who was paralyzed from the chest down after being shot during a drug robbery says he’s relieved that the last man charged in his shooting has been sentenced to 32 years in prison, but is still struggling with the idea that he’ll likely never walk again.

Joseph Brandon Elliott, 28, of Newark, about 35 miles east of Columbus, was selling marijuana from his home on Jan. 22 when prosecutors say three men robbed him, and one shot him in the back. His alleged shooter, Willie Qirat, 34, was sentenced in Licking County court this past week, The Advocate in Newark (https://ohne.ws/X6nvL2) reported.

A jury found Qirat guilty of attempted murder, assault, aggravated robbery and several other charges. Two other men, Dacian Cabiness and Dequan Harrison, were sentenced to nine years in prison for their role in the robbery and testified against Qirat in plea agreements with prosecutors.

Qirat’s attorney, Kristin Burkette, did not return calls for comment. She told jurors there was a lack of physical evidence tying Qirat to the scene and questioned the credibility of Cabiness and Harrison.

Before Quirat’ sentencing, Elliott addressed the courtroom about the shooting’s impact on him. During Elliott’s statement, Quirat began a profanity-laced tirade, wishing Elliott dead and threatening to hurt him and his family. Elliott called Qirat an “animal,” but said he had forgiven him so Elliott could move on with his life.

“I’m just thankful to be alive,” Elliott said later.

The bullet severed Elliott’s spinal cord, penetrated his lungs and lodged near his stomach. He had to be revived after he stopped breathing on the way to the hospital.

Elliott underwent nine surgeries and received blood transfusions for weeks following the shooting. When he woke up in the hospital, he asked girlfriend April Mallassee to marry him. They were married June 7.

Elliott said he just sold a little marijuana to make some money and hasn’t sold any drugs since the shooting. He says he is focused on moving forward and being a good family man.

Elliott said among the most difficult aspects of being paralyzed are his children’s questions and comments. His 2-year-old daughter doesn’t understand why he can’t play with her as he did before, and another daughter told him she was convinced her prayers were being ignored because she had been praying for him to walk again, Elliott said.

“You don’t have the answers,” Elliott said. “It breaks your heart.”

Elliott says he would like to walk again, but his goal now is to get a stand-up wheelchair, which doctors say will help improve circulation in his legs and prevent blood clots.

Those chairs can cost about $11,000, and his family is organizing a benefit to raise the money.

Elliott also hopes to share his experience with young people who might be headed down the wrong path.

“If I can show them what a victim goes through, if I can stop that at the right age, that would be good,” he said.


Information from: The Advocate, https://www.newarkadvocate.com

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