Family of paralyzed 5-year-old after fundraiser: community support ‘warms our hearts’

Tyreik Gadsden rolls down the hall of a North Carolina rehabilitation hospital in his new wheelchair. The 5-year-old was paralyzed after he was shot in Charleston’s East Side.

More than 200 community members, leaders and activists turned out Monday night to show their support for 5-year-old Tyreik Gadsden, who was shot in Charleston’s East Side during a gunfight and is now paralyzed.

Together they raised more than $7,500 for the Gadsden family to help with Tyreik’s medical expenses. He was shot about 9 p.m. May 22 during a gun battle between two unknown men.

“It means a whole lot and it warms our hearts,” said Chaplain Elaine Barnett, Tyreik’s aunt, thanking everyone for the support.

The fundraiser was put on by Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, along with the National Action Network and NAACP. It was held at the International Longshoremen’s Association Hall on Morrison Drive.

“That could have been anybody’s child,” Gilliard said after the event, adding that the shooting was personal for him. “That’s why I get involved. It’s not about being a politician; this is a human issue.”

He said he was proud of the amount raised and happy to see so many people of different backgrounds attend.

“I believe today, with the outpouring from the community, that the person (who shot Tyreik) will be caught,” Gilliard said, adding that a lot of the city’s “eyes and ears on the streets” were at the event.

Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen spoke at the fundraiser and said he knows there are people in the community who saw what happened and asked them to come forward. He also said he hopes the shooting is the one incident that galvanizes the community.

“As a community, we should be outraged,” he said. “The city as a whole should say, ‘this is not what we’re going to accept.’”

Mullen said the shooting of such an innocent child made him sick and that detectives were feverishly working for justice. Mullen said a photo of Tyreik standing in front of his grandmother’s house holding his kindergarten diploma is on display in the detectives’ bureau.

“That little boy, that picture, is a symbol of why we do what we do,” he said.

Family members said Tyreik is still in good spirits at a rehabilitation hospital in North Carolina.

“He’s just a trooper to us,” Barnett said, describing him as “full of life and bubbly.”

The family’s attorney, Michael Cooper, of Charleston, added that they were all just happy Tyreik survived the shooting and hoping for justice.

Reach Melissa Boughton at 937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughton.