“We’re still in disbelief that our child was shot”

There are sounds of concern and worry in Demerio Houston’s voice. There’s pain and disbelief, too, and now perhaps a sense of relief. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back showed up for work on Monday, one week after his 12-year-old daughter Hi’Lynn took a bullet in her thigh after a random shooting at his home in Charlotte, N.C.

The first-year Canadian Football Leaguer was ready to instantly give up the game and return home, but his wife Ashley insisted he stay and instead his family has now joined him here in Winnipeg.

“We’re still in disbelief that our child was shot,” said Houston in a chat with bluebombers.com on Monday. “We’re still trying to wrap our heads around the fact that right now we’re trying to help our daughter deal with a gun wound. Hi’Lynn is doing a lot better, although at first she was having a hard time going to sleep. She said, ‘the last time I went to sleep I almost lost my life.’

“I was going to come home, but they felt more comfortable coming here. Now they’re here and we’ve moved into an apartment and it’s important to have them with me.”

The matter is still under investigation by police in Charlotte, where some neighbours have tried to help by providing security camera footage. Houston was actually on the phone with his wife that night when the incident occurred. And as he provided the details of what unfolded, the randomness of the event is chilling.

“I was just talking to my wife and making sure that everything was OK, that the kids had gone to bed and everything when she said, ‘Hi’Lynn’s been shot,’” said Houston. “At first I didn’t really understand. We play Fortnite and I was thinking it was late and she shouldn’t be playing a game this late. She was like, ‘No, she’s really been shot.’

“I started to panic because she said she’d been shot in the head. She was trying to stay calm and get the kids and rush her to the hospital. I was in shock. I was panicking. All I could think of was, ‘I need to get home. I need to get home.’”

Hi’Lynn was taken to a hospital where doctors discovered a bullet in her thigh and it remains there as doctors were concerned it was close to the bone. Doctors here in Winnipeg have examined her as well and there is a hope she could have surgery later this week.

“The detective came to the hospital the night it happened and talked to my wife and he said this could have been a different story because of the way the bullet went through my house and into my daughter’s room,” said Houston. “She could have been shot in the chest or higher up if she had been sleeping in a normal position.

“Another bullet also travelled into my son’s room and hit the ceiling fan and then went into the head board right above his head. A third bullet went into the attic.”

Houston said the police have said his neighbour’s home was hit by 10 bullets.

“We’ve lived there almost two years and never had any issues,” he said. “I guess my neighbours were the targets somehow and we were just in the crossfire. It’s a quiet neighbourhood. We live on a dead end and our neighbours are cool. They’re quiet. We’ve had no problems there. But, just one night…”

With Ashley, Hi’Lynn, seven-year-old Jace and six-month old Campbell now with him in Winnipeg, Houston is hoping they can begin the process of recovering, both physically and emotionally.

“The night it happened, I tried to call one of the coaches to tell them I was going to go back home,” he said. “Football is my love and I’m blessed to be doing it as a job. But in that moment I was ready to drop it and go home and take care of my family. They’re my No. 1.

“I got no sleep the night it happened. I talked to Coach O’Shea and Coach JY (Jordan Younger) and they told me to take the time to get my family situated and take care of them. My wife told me to keep practising and that maybe that would be a distraction. That first day… I tried, but it was hard to be focussed. I was there, but I wasn’t there. The second day was still rough, but now that my family is here and things are getting better I’m able to focus.

“It’s a lot to handle. I was so close to giving everything up with football just to be with my family. Having them here with me now is so important. My wife said, ‘Stay there. We’ll come to you.’ I just want to provide for my family and make sure they’re safe.”

FYI, the family has set up a GoFundMe page to try and help cover some of the medical expenses.

“All of this, it puts things into perspective,” said Houston. “You can be sleeping in your bed one minute and your life could possibly be taken the next. My wife and I preach to our kids to stay prayed up, to do what’s best and what’s right and keep God first. Whatever anybody can do would be greatly appreciated. But just pray for me and my family, please. It’s rough right now.”

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