A white Chevy pickup truck came screeching in. In my sideview mirror I saw the driver jump out. He was agitated and hiding something .
Jay Wilson: ‘He fired. My window exploded and I felt the weight of 10 sledgehammers coming down on my leg and a hot pain.’ Photograph: Johnathon Kelso for the Guardian • As told to Emma Rosser
Everything was grey. I could hear my friend Priscilla screaming and voices all around me, but I couldn’t see anything. The paramedics lifted the gurney – “One, two, three” – and that’s when I came to.
I wasn’t supposed to be there. I live in Fayetteville in Georgia, and I was going to Barnesville, 15 miles away, for my first client meeting for my new business. The night before, I decided to make a quick detour, to help prep my friend Priscilla for a job interview.
It was a warm day in early October 2015 and I followed Google Maps to Priscilla’s apartment. I couldn’t see a sign for her complex, just a nondescript building, so I pulled into a parking space and called her.
A white Chevy pickup truck came screeching in, blocking me in. In my sideview mirror I saw the driver jump out of the truck. He was agitated and hiding something.
“What are you doing here?” he yelled through my window. I was confused: did I do something wrong? Am I being robbed? He stepped back and I came face to face with a .380-calibre Magnum pistol.
“Whoa,” I screamed. He fired. My window exploded and I felt the weight of 10 sledgehammers coming down on my leg and a hot pain. I grabbed my knee, trying to hold it together. Click, click, click. He tried to shoot me again, but the gun jammed.
It was fight or flight time. I launched my upper body over the centre console, dragging my legs behind me. With every ounce of strength I had, I reached for the passenger door handle, pushed my way out and fell to the ground. I heard him walk around the front of the car.
With my left arm I grabbed his shirt and pleaded with him, “I don’t know what I’ve done wrong. You don’t need to do this.” The sun was shining so brightly, I couldn’t see. Then he stepped over me and I saw his face. There was nothing in his eyes, just a blank stare.
When a gun chamber is cleared, it’s a very distinctive sound. I heard it and could see the muscles in the man’s forearm as he held the gun to my temple. At the last second I turned my head away. He shot me in the back of my head and I blacked out.
Five witnesses pieced the rest together. They said he shot me three more times: in the stomach, throat and ribs and that between shots he beat me with the gun and kicked me. An older lady screamed out of her window, “Stop shooting that boy, you’re going to kill him.” He bent down, looked at me, and fled.
Priscilla was still on the phone. She later told me that when she heard me screaming and a loud bang she ran out to find me. When she arrived she said she could see smoke coming out of my head.
My vision came back in the ambulance, like a fade in from black. On the monitor I watched my blood pressure dropping; I looked down and saw blood pouring from my midsection. I closed my eyes to pray and the paramedic yelled, “Stay with me!” so I prayed with my eyes open.
We burst through the doors of the hospital. I counted 14 people and I thought, how many people got shot? I looked around. I was the only one in the room, and I realised – they’re all here for me.
The shot to my leg shattered my femur, the shot in my throat blew out the side of my face, my jaw was shot open and the shot to my head penetrated my skull. The bullet is still in my head; doctors said that trying to retrieve it would be detrimental. I also have a second bullet in my leg and a 30cm scar on my abdomen.
It took me three months to learn to write again. I’ve had severe migraines; I can’t run without a limp, or even climb a ladder, and everything hurts.
My attacker wasn’t a gang member or drug dealer. He just an ordinary guy with a lot of issues. I found out later he had mistaken me for a man who was sleeping with his girlfriend. He died that day, after police forced his car off the road. He shot himself.
I forgave him, but I’ve come to learn that forgiveness is a journey, not a destination. I’ve had to forgive him about 300 times. And every time I can’t do something I used to be able to, I have to forgive him again.