- Associated Press - Monday, December 12, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The tragedy of a baby being shot 17 years ago culminated in a joyful reunion Saturday between the victim, now a thriving teenager, and a former Springfield police officer who always wondered what happened to him.

David Ballance, 62, said it was a miracle to finally see a grown-up William Smith, formerly William Cave Jr., face-to-face.

“Thank you, God, for this moment,” said Ballance, as he hugged Smith, 17, in The State Journal-Register newsroom Saturday in Springfield.

Smith, a senior at Normal Community High School, was joined by more than a dozen friends and family members who traveled to Springfield Saturday to meet Ballance.

Smith also called his adoptive father who raised him, Johnny Smith, who lives in Memphis, Tennessee, so he could speak to Ballance.

Meeting the man he credits with saving his life 17 years ago was a blessing and a miracle, Smith said.

“I never would have thought someone would still think about me all these years,” he said.

On July 12, 1999, Smith was 4 months old when he was shot during a drug deal gone wrong involving his biological father, William Cave.

Three men walked up to Cave, who was in his pickup near 11th and Pine streets at 11:50 p.m., and attempted to rob him at gunpoint. The baby also was in the pickup.

The elder Cave, who has since turned his life around since the shooting, pulled away as one of the men fired a handgun. The bullet passed through Cave’s back and hit Smith in the head, critically injuring him.

Ballance, now an independent contractor and chaplain for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1239 in Beardstown, was one of the first patrol officers on the scene and discovered the baby had a bullet lodged under his left temple.

Because of the shooting, and other issues from an up-and-down career as a Springfield police officer, Ballance said he has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder for nearly 20 years.

In October, he reached out to The State Journal-Register to see if Smith was alive and doing well.

He quickly got his answer when a family member of Smith saw the story and reported he was a straight-A student in Normal, prompting Saturday’s reunion.

“That lifted a burden off me, and I’ve had more spring in my step ever since,” Ballance said.

Smith’s family and Ballance shared stories for an hour Saturday and could have talked more. Ballance and Smith are now friends on Facebook and plan to stay in touch, each said.

Glynis Smith, who adopted William as soon as he was released from the hospital, shared with Ballance that doctors warned her the child might struggle to walk, never drive and have an intellectual disability.

He’s overcome each and every obstacle in front of him, she said.

“He is my angel,” Glynis Smith said.

She also was glad the two reunited because it shows her son, at a time when tension between police and the black community is high, there are good people who wear a uniform.

“We’re so thankful to God for you,” she said.

Seeing Smith reunite with Ballance reminded her God has a plan for everyone, said Evelyn Curry, Glynis Smith’s biological daughter.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Curry said. “That’s why we’re here today.”

___

Source: The (Springfield) State Journal-Register, https://bit.ly/2gRrCEG

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