Leader Blues

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

TOP STORY >> A survivor in shooting doing well

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader editor-in-chief

Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula, 18, who was a fullback and a linebacker for the Jacksonville Red Devils in 2007, is recovering from gunshot wounds after a terrorist attack Monday at an Army recruiting station in Little Rock.

Ezeagwula was shot three times as he stood outside the recruiting station with Pvt. William Long, 23, of Conway.

Long was shot several times and died later at Baptist Health Medical Center. Ezeagwula’s family is hoping the teenager makes a full recovery.

Tuesday, Ezeagwula’s Army buddies brought him a football to cheer him up and to remind him of the days when he played for the Red Devils and when terrorism was something that happened far away.

The soldiers couldn’t imagine they’d become victims of terrorism even before they headed overseas.

Members of our armed services know danger awaits them when they go to Iraq or Afghanistan — roadside bombs are a constant menace — but when you’re volunteering at an Army-Navy recruiting station, the last thing that crosses your mind is gunfire from a Muslim fanatic who’ll tell you his religion stands for peace while he mows you down.

Who knows, he might have shouted, “Allah is great” as he sped away.

Ezeagwula and Long were volunteering in the Army’s Hometown Recruiter Assistance program. They made easy targets as they took a break outside the recruiting office in Ashley Square Shopping Center near Rodney Parham Road when a dark pickup approached.

They had no idea that a convert to Islam, who had recently returned from Yemen, was looking for soldiers to kill.

Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, 24, aka Carlos Leon Bledsoe, shot several rounds from the back of the vehicle. He’d brought a cheap Chinese military rifle with him, similar to the one a Jacksonville man used last summer in a standoff with police in his home. That standoff ended when a police sharpshooter killed the man through a kitchen window.

Although Ezeagwula and Long may have been armed, they didn’t have time to defend themselves once the shooting started.

Muhammad said he would have shot others if they’d been outside with the others.

But this was no suicide mission: Muhammad didn’t dare leave his truck and storm the recruiting office, where he could have killed many other soldiers, but he, too, would have died in a hail of gunfire.

Instead, Muhammad fled, but he was soon arrested at the I-630 and I-30 interchange near downtown Little Rock.

He pleaded not guilty Tuesday to capital murder and terrorism, but he remained defiant. He said he was a devout Muslim who hated the military for what it was doing to Muslims overseas.

He recently changed his name from Carlos Leon Bledsoe, but the FBI was watching him because of his travels to the Middle East. He’d moved from Memphis to Little Rock, where he was looking for a military target.

On Monday, he’d found what he was looking for.