Asa, an 8-year-old Jewish boy, was hit by a stray bullet in Oakland last month. (Photo/GoFundMe)
Asa, an 8-year-old Jewish boy, was hit by a stray bullet in Oakland last month. (Photo/GoFundMe)

8-year-old Jewish boy hit with stray bullet in Oakland is paralyzed

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On a summer Friday evening, 8-year-old Asa was riding in his family’s car on Interstate 580 near Oakland’s Grand Avenue. It was July 14, a Shabbat eve, when he was struck by a stray bullet.

Asa was rushed to the hospital, where he was “fighting for his life,” his family, who belong to Oakland’s Temple Sinai, said on an online fundraising page.

“Bullet and bone fragments pierced (and some lodged in) the spinal column of his neck,” they wrote.

Just over a month since the shooting, Asa remains paralyzed below the neck and requires a mechanical respirator, feeding tubes and 24-hour around-the-clock medical care, according to his parents, Melissa and Caesar. They say costs for the first year could exceed an estimated $1 million.

Out of respect for the family’s privacy, J. is not sharing their last name. They state on the fundraising page that they are not speaking with the media for now, and they did not respond to J.’s request for an interview. Leadership at the family’s Reform synagogue in Oakland also declined J.’s request for comment for privacy reasons.

The GoFundMe campaign to cover Asa’s ongoing medical care raised over $1.1 million in 11 days, as donations poured in from more than 9,500 individuals. The fundraiser opened on Aug. 3 with an initial goal of $250,000 before it closed on Aug. 13.

The family’s note on the page introduces Asa as a “soccer enthusiast, math wizard, and devoted brother and friend.”

One donor wrote that their grandson is in the same religious school class as Asa at Temple Sinai.

“We were all devastated to hear of this tragedy. Will be rooting for Asa’s strong spirit and loving family and friends to bolster him at this difficult time and moving forward,” they said in a comment on GoFundMe.

The tragedy hit home for Elizabeth Edelson. Though she does not know Asa personally, she donated $108 and shared in a comment that “every Friday we take the Grand/Lakeshore exit to have Shabbat dinner with our two little boys’ grandparents.”

Edelson expressed her sorrow for Asa and added, “sending all the strength, love, and peace to you and your family—you sound like a remarkable kiddo with a remarkable family.”

We’re fiercely committed to doing everything we can to help Asa thrive.

At least seven children have been shot on Bay Area freeways “in the past few years,” according to NBC Bay Area. In Oakland, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, there have been more than 1,000 incidents of gun violence recorded by police this year through June. That’s a 61 percent increase over the same period in 2019, though far less than over the past two years during the height of the pandemic.

“This tragedy is beyond words and comprehension, to have your innocence and childhood stolen away in an instant,” Asa’s father wrote in an Aug. 8 social media post. “But Asa is an amazing, strong, brilliant little man and has continued to prove everyone wrong. We weren’t sure he would survive the first night, yet today he is fully with us, laughing and singing, doing complex math and even dancing in a cervical collar. He blows our minds every day.”

Within two weeks of the shooting, Asa was reading his favorite books and requesting songs by Imagine Dragons, according to an update from his family on the GoFundMe page.

“His intellect, his spirit, and his love of life are very much intact,” his family said.

A list of Asa’s medical needs include home renovations and medical equipment, a power wheelchair with “sip and puff” adaptations, a wheelchair-accessible van, and rehabilitation and education costs.

Beyond those needs and costs, Asa will require continuous physical and occupational therapy, secondary surgeries, mental health support and travel to specialized pediatric medical centers, such as the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.

“We’re fiercely committed to doing everything we can to help Asa thrive which includes supporting his return to home life, school, and being the energetic, creative, and high-spirited 8-year-old he is,” his parents wrote.

The California Highway Patrol said Tuesday that the investigation remains ongoing and that anyone with information about the incident should contact the department.

According to the CHP, the shooting happened around 6:20 p.m. on July 14. Callers reported “two vehicles shooting at each other as they traveled eastbound on I-580 near Harrison Street. One of the callers advised that an unrelated vehicle had pulled to the right shoulder near Grand Avenue after being struck by the gunfire,” the highway patrol said in a press release.

Although the fundraising campaign has ended, Asa’s parents plan to post further updates about their son on the GoFundMe page and join organized work against gun violence. The page mentions the nonprofits Youth Alive, Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety.

“The power of this community has given us so much more than financial relief,” they wrote in a more recent post. “Feeling buoyed by your love and support is a gift beyond measure.”

“We hope you never know pain like this. At the same time, we hope that you may know (as we now do) the exquisite gift of children’s resilience.”

Jew,  Jewish,  J. The Jewish News of Northern California
Emma Goss.(Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
Emma Goss

Emma Goss is a J. staff writer. She is a Bay Area native and an alum of Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School and Kehillah Jewish High School. Emma also reports for NBC Bay Area. Follow her on Twitter @EmmaAudreyGoss.