Leader Blues

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

TOP STORY >> Private still hurting after terror attack

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader editor-in-chief

Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula wasn’t feeling well enough to attend the funeral of Pvt. William Long on Monday.

Quinton’s recovering from last week’s terrorist attack at a military recruiting station in west Little Rock, where Long was killed by a single bullet.

Ezeagwula had hoped to go to his Army buddy’s funeral, but he has shrapnel all over his body, and often the pain medication doesn’t lessen the hurt.

Quinton, a former Red Devil football player, survived despite being shot three times. He told us he played dead during the ordeal until the alleged shooter, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, 24, aka Carlos Leon Bledsoe, drove off.

Ezeagwula, 18, and Long, 23, were standing outside the Army-Navy recruiting station on Rodney Parham Road on June 1, when Muhammad drove up in a black pickup truck carrying a cheap Chinese semiautomatic rifle and started firing.

After he came home from the hospital Thursday, he showed us the bullet holes in his body and told us he has shrapnel in his lungs, his neck and down his back.
Quinton’s mother, Sonja, went to the funeral without her son, who’s recuperating at their Jacksonville home.

The Patriot Guard showed up at their door early Monday morning to escort Sonja and Long’s parents to the funeral service at Sonny Gap Baptist Church of Conway, followed by burial at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery at 1501 W. Maryland Ave. on the edge of Sherwood.

She rode in the limousine with the Longs and sat with them at the funeral service and burial. “They treated me like family,” Quinton’s mother told us after the funeral.

Most of the time, Quinton stays in their Sunnyside home with friends.

“He’s staying in bed more,” she said. “He’s been feeling bad all day.”

Mayor-elect Gary Fletcher dropped by to thank the young man for his service to his country.

On Tuesday afternoon, Quinton was holding on to a long pillow as he slowly walked with his mother into a room at the Armed Forces Recruiting Station on Main Street in Jacksonville.

The young soldier was at times tongue-tied in front of the TV cameras, and his handler, Capt. Mathew Feehan, cautioned him not to discuss the shooting.

Feehan said that, following the shootings, the military is “looking at our security posture at recruiting stations.”

When a TV reporter asked Quinton about our report that he played dead during the shooting, he could only say, “No comment.”

Quinton, a heavy-machine operator, is thankful that the military has given him a career. He wants to continue to serve.

“I like defending this country,” Quinton said.

He hopes to become a drill sergeant one day, he said.

His mother said her family thanks God every day that Quinton is alive.

“I believe when something bad happens, God will turn it around,”
she said.

“I have no ill feeling toward the young man,” she continued, referring to the alleged shooter. “I pray justice will be served.”

Muhammad yesterday called the Associated Press to defend the attack at the recruiting station, saying he’s not a murderer because U.S. military action in the Middle East made the killing justified.

Although he confessed, he said shooting Long wasn’t murder because he thinks it’s murder only when it’s “without a justified reason.”

In a collect call from jail, Muhammad told the AP that “he didn’t specifically plan the shootings, but they had been on his mind for a while.”

He denied his lawyer’s claim that he had been “radicalized” in a prison in Yemen, where he’d been arrested on a passport-forgery charge.

Quinton’s mother says her son has always been a hero.

“You never know what God has in store for you,” she said.

Quinton walked slowly as he and his mom left the press conference together. He may always be in pain, but outside, the sun was shining on this brilliant afternoon, and they were grateful on this hot summer day that his young life was not cut short.