Payton Washington says that she did not see the shooter, and she tried to calm her friends down even though she was bleeding.
Three bullets struck the 18-year old girl on April 18, twice in her buttock in the right side and once in her back, which impacted her left abdominal. The parking lot at an H-E.B. in Elgin was a pick-up point for the 18-year old and three of her cheerleading friends following practice.
Heather Roth accidentally got into a car that she thought belonged to her before realizing a man was in the passenger’s seat. She quickly jumped out. The police identified the man as Pedro Tello Rodriguez Jr. (25), who then opened fire on the vehicle in which the girls were riding.
Washington said in an interview that aired on Friday morning “Good Morning America”that she was texting at the time of the shooting and eating Twizzlers. “I didn’t really see him.”
“I could hear what was going on in the background, but I did not think it would be as important as it turned out to be. She kept repeating “I’m Sorry, I’m Sorry,’ and that was all she really said.”
She “turned immediately” after hearing the first shot.
She said, “I didn’t even know what it was. But my ears were ringing so I turned and did something.”
Washington noticed that she was having trouble breathing as the girls drove away.
We were running as fast as possible. All the girls were screaming. I was really just telling myself to stop breathing. She explained that her diaphragm made it difficult to breathe.
Her focus was on keeping her friends calm, despite her injury.
I was trying to be as calm as I could for the people in the vehicle. I could see how scared and sad they were. “The more calm you stay, the calmer your body will be,” she said. “It was scary, but I didn’t want to act scared.”
She noticed that there was blood on the passenger seat. However, she could not tell what her injuries were because of her adrenaline rush. She started throwing up when they stopped.
“I was vomiting blood and I thought, oh no that’s not right. “I knew then that something was wrong somewhere,” she said.
She was airlifted into the ICU with a critical condition. She soon discovered that her spleen had been shattered and she had two holes in both her diaphragm and stomach. In her treatment, doctors removed a lobe of her pancreas. She also had 32 staples all over her body.
Roth was only grazed with a bullet, and the other two girls in the vehicle were not injured.
Washington, a decorated cheerleader and champion, was determined that she would regain her strength, but it wasn’t an easy task.
It was hard. “It’s really strange to be hurting to walk or stand when you were flipping, running track and doing the long jump just a week ago,” she told ABC News.
“I couldn’t get up on my own, I couldn’t get off the couch or the bed, and I couldn’t even stand. Going up the stairs, I would get dizzy.” “Just stuff you’ve never thought about before,” she continued.
Kelan Washington , her father, told NBC News that his daughter is strong and has an “undeniable desire to not settle for anything.”
“Payton has accomplished all she’s done with just one lung since she was born.” He said, “She’s tougher than they come.”
Washington, who was diagnosed with a serious illness five weeks ago, has recovered well and is now able to join her classmates at their high school graduation.
She is optimistic about her future. She’s determined to return this summer to her passions for cheerleading and tumbling and plans to attend Baylor University next fall.
Elgin Police said that suspect Rodriguez Jr. had been charged with deadly conduct – a third degree felony. Online jail records show that he was freed on May 12, on a $100,000 bond.
Charlie Baird said in a Friday statement that Rodriguez worked at the H.E.B. In the past, Rodriguez was a victim in a car of a robbery. Baird stated that he was shocked when one of the cheerleaders entered his car, thinking he would be robbed.
Baird stated that his bail was reduced from $500,000 to $100,000 after an “audience where the judge heard testimony regarding the circumstances surrounding this incident and learned of Pedro’s ties to community and lack of criminal record”.
“Pedro wishes a speedy and complete recovery for Ms. Washington.”
Washington claimed that she was not focused on the gunman.
“He did what they did, and I will just try to get through it.” Washington said, “There’s no sense in me thinking about what he has done.”
She wants to use her story as a way to inspire others.
She said, “You can do literally anything if you persevere and push yourself.” Never doubt yourself. You can achieve anything if you put your 100% into it.