- Associated Press - Saturday, November 19, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - For the past 17 years, former Springfield police officer David Ballance has wondered if the infant he discovered with a gunshot wound survived.

On Oct. 23, Ballance got his answer. Not only is William Cave Jr. (now William Smith) alive, but he’s a good student on the verge of graduating from Normal Community High School.

“What a miracle,” said Ballance, who reached out to The State Journal-Register to see if anyone could provide information on the boy. “I was really hoping and praying he was doing well.”

The word miracle is used a lot by family members when discussing William.

On July 12, 1999, he was only 5 months old when he was shot during a drug deal gone wrong.

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

The elder Cave pulled away as one of the men fired a handgun. The bullet passed through Cave’s back and hit baby William in the head, critically injuring him.

Ballance was one of the first police officers to arrive and discovered the bullet lodged under the baby’s left temple.

Because of the shooting, and other issues from his past, Ballance said he has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder for nearly 20 years.

Ballance believes that knowing now that William is OK could bring the officer peace of mind and help him with his struggles.

“This is a relief,” he said.

Seventeen years ago, Glynif Smith was operating a daycare in Springfield primarily for foster children. William attended the daycare.

Smith already had a soft spot for the boy and planned to adopt him, she said.

The shooting, and possibility of a lifetime of watching over a child with physical and mental limitations, didn’t sway her.

“I didn’t care what the consequences were,” Smith said. “He’s my angel.”

William spent about a month in the hospital before he could be released. Doctors warned he might struggle to walk, never drive and have an intellectual disability, Smith said.

For the next five years, William underwent daily physical therapy. According to Smith, you wouldn’t notice anything unusual with his walk today.

But there were complications. From 5 months to 2 years old, William suffered seizures.

In fact, Smith said, he can’t play organized sports because leftover bullet fragments inside his brain could trigger another seizure.

Mentally, there were setbacks as well, Smith said.

For most of his schooling, William was enrolled in special education courses because he had a learning disability caused by the traumatic head injury.

Instead of accepting his condition, William used it as motivation and doubled down on his education. He still has a tutor but is no longer in special education classes and is getting straight A’s, she said.

After high school, William plans to attend community college and focus on business.

“He’s a miracle child to me,” Smith said. “Everything they said he wouldn’t do he has done.”

When the story appeared, William’s cousin, Calvin Cave, was the first to report that William was doing well.

The initial response triggered a series of interviews with those involved. All parties agreed a reunion between Ballance and William is in order.

According to Calvin, the incident had a dramatic effect on the family. He also said he was glad the story got attention because it shows the human side of police officers.

Not only is William doing better, Calvin said, but his biological father, William Cave, turned his life around after years of being in and out of jail before the shooting.

Calvin put the newspaper in touch with Cave, who still lives in Springfield. In a phone interview, Cave said, the incident made him realize he needed to be a better father.

He added he and his son have maintained a relationship, and, just like Smith, he calls William “a miracle child.”

“It’s not important to be on the streets,” Cave said. “I didn’t realize that until he got hurt.”

Cave provided a phone number for his son, who had read the newspaper story by the time a SJ-R reporter contacted him.

The 17-year-old said he was shocked to learn a police officer still thought about him. He was 4 years old when he was told what happened to him.

At Normal Community High School, he’s the manager for the basketball team and dreams of starting his own business, he said.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe what happened, he said.

“I’m really lucky to be alive today,” William said. “It’s a miracle.”

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Source: The (Springfield) State Journal-Register, https://bit.ly/2eT8C7i

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, https://www.sj-r.com

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