Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

TOP STORY >> Wounded soldier has surgery

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader executive editor

Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula of Jacksonville, who was shot three times earlier this month as he stood outside a military recruiting station in Little Rock, underwent surgery Tuesday morning to remove shrapnel from his back.

He had the operation at St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center in Little Rock, said his mother, Sonja Ezeagwula.

Ezeagwula went home from the hospital Tuesday afternoon.

There are still as many as 50 pieces of shrapnel in her son’s back, she said.

Ezeagwula, who graduated from Jacksonville High School last year, has shrapnel all over his body, and often the pain medication doesn’t lessen the hurt.

He has shrapnel in his lung, his neck and down his back.

“He’s in a whole of pain,” his mother said after the surgery. “He’s in more pain than he was at first. He has to lie on his stomach and face.”

She said a nurse changes his dressing once a day and his mother changes it at night.

Ezeagwula, 18, and Pvt. William Long, 23, were standing outside the Army-Navy recruiting station on Rodney Parham Road on June 1, when Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, 24, drove up in a black pickup truck carrying a Chinese semiautomatic rifle and started firing.

Long died from a single bullet.

He and Long had worked there only for a week as temporary recruiters before they were supposed to head out for their next assignment.

Ezeagwula told The Leader that he played dead during the ordeal until the alleged shooter, aka Carlos Leon Bledsoe, drove away.

After Muhammad drove off, the Jackson-ville teenager started crawling back toward the recruiting office.

As he lay wounded, he called his mother on his cell phone to tell her he was all right, but she didn’t answer.

As they put Ezeagwula in an ambulance, a sergeant called the private’s mother to tell her he’d been shot.

He doesn’t remember some of the details of the shooting. But his mother says that when Muhammad reached for his rifle, her son thought it was a prank.

He put a large pillow behind his back during a press conference on June 9 at the Armed Forces Recruiting Station on Main Street in Jacksonville.

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

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

Long was buried June 8 at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery at 1501 W. Maryland Ave. at the edge of Sherwood.

Ezeagwula did not feel well enough to attend Long’s funeral.