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Ala. Boy Paralyzed by Gunshot Wound to Back While Playing Outside: 'Don't Be Sad, Because I'm Alive'

The teenagers allegedly involved in the shooting of Brandon Roller, 12, have not been apprehended, Sgt. LaQuitta Wade tells PEOPLE

<p>GoFundMe</p> Brandon Roller

GoFundMe

Brandon Roller

The last thing Brandon Roller remembers is running into his apartment, screaming for his mother and saying he could not breathe. He clutched at his back. Blood pooled around his feet.

In the narrative of events, described by the 12-year-old’s aunt, Martesha Adams, on a GoFundMe page, Brandon had been playing outside behind his Birmingham apartment building with friends the afternoon of March 22 when gunfire rang out.

The children had been “approached by a group of unknown suspects who began firing shots,” according to the Birmingham Police Department, who said in a press release that Brandon – who they did not identify by name – “was struck by gunfire while running away.”

<p>Courtesy of Martesha Adams</p> Brandon Roller, with his mother, Courtney Chestner, and his three younger brothers.

Courtesy of Martesha Adams

Brandon Roller, with his mother, Courtney Chestner, and his three younger brothers.

As Brandon ran inside, a bullet went through the door, piercing him in the back and paralyzing him from the waist down, Sgt. LaQuitta Wade tells PEOPLE.

“Don’t be sad, because I’m alive,’’ Brandon said in a phone interview with AL.com from his hospital bed. “I made it. I pulled through it. I’m OK.”

<p>Birmingham Police Dept.</p> Birmingham police responded to a 911 call about Brandon's shooting at 3:12 p.m., March 22.

Birmingham Police Dept.

Birmingham police responded to a 911 call about Brandon's shooting at 3:12 p.m., March 22.

Earlier that Friday afternoon, Brandon and his friends had been approached by a group of young people, believed to be juveniles, Wade tells PEOPLE.

The teenagers asked the younger children if they knew a particular person.

Speaking for his friends, Brandon said they did not.

One of the teenagers responded, saying that if the group had in fact known that person, they would have been killed, according to Wade.

“Ya’ll straight?” another younger boy asked the older kids, according to Wade.

The answer came in gunfire, says Wade.

<p>Courtesy of Martesha Adams</p> Brandon Roller with his mother, Courtney Chestner.

Courtesy of Martesha Adams

Brandon Roller with his mother, Courtney Chestner.

Brandon was the only one hit, according to police, who, responding to a 911 call around 3:12 p.m. Friday, found the child lying on the floor of his Carson Road apartment.

Birmingham Fire and Rescue Services transported him to Children’s of Alabama hospital, where he underwent extensive treatment.

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The seventh grader, who plays the baritone in his middle school band, raps and writes and records his own music, according to his aunt, will now be undergoing an “extensive amount of therapy to relearn his normal daily activities and new way of life.”

“Brandon is the kind of kid everyone loves to be around,” Adams wrote on the GoFundMe page. “He has a light about himself that gravitated towards anybody who came across his path.”

The 12-year-old, “who enjoys life more than anything” and is known for cracking jokes, also “looks after his younger brothers and his mother,” his aunt said.

<p>Birmingham Police Dept.</p> Brandon Roller and his friends were playing in the backyard of the east Birmingham apartment complex (pictured here) March 22, when teens began firing at them.

Birmingham Police Dept.

Brandon Roller and his friends were playing in the backyard of the east Birmingham apartment complex (pictured here) March 22, when teens began firing at them.

Courtney Chestner, the single mother of four boys, has quit her job to care for her newly-paralyzed son full time, according to Adams.

Chestner is determined her son will one day walk again.

“They say there is a zero percent chance of him ever walking again but our faith is so strong that we know that it’s going to take a lot of hard work and dedication,’’ she told AL.com. “He is so strong, so strong.”

<p>Courtesy of Martesha Adams</p> Brandon Roller, with his three younger brothers.

Courtesy of Martesha Adams

Brandon Roller, with his three younger brothers.

The shooting comes just months after the family, who experienced homelessness last year, had found permanent housing at the east Birmingham apartment complex, Chestner told the outlet.

After losing the lease on their prior home, Brandon’s family shuffled through inexpensive hotels – one without running water – using the bathroom at a nearby gas station last year.

Then, around Christmastime, a slot opened up at the Carson Road apartment complex, she told AL.com. Her sons’ beds had just arrived when Brandon was shot.

“‘We just can’t catch a break,’” Chestner recalled one of her younger sons saying, per the outlet. “‘They just destroyed our family.’”

As of Wednesday morning, no one has been arrested in connection to the open assault investigation, Wade tells PEOPLE, adding that the motive for the shooting remains unknown.

Anyone with information regarding the case is encouraged to contact the Birmingham Police Department’s Homicide Unit at 205-254-1764 or Crime Stoppers at 205-254-7777. 

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