• Shaquille O'Neal will pay 1 year's worth of rent for family of 12-year-old shooting victim

    By: Nancy Clanton, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Updated:

    Isaiah Payton, the 12-year-old boy who was shot outside a football stadium in southeast Atlanta and is paralyzed from the waist down, might never walk again. But, thanks to basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, he can at least go home.

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    O’Neal heard the hospital could not release Isaiah because the family’s home could not accommodate the boy. So he decided to help.

    “We found her (Isaiah’s mother, Allison Wood) a house in College Park in a nice area,” O'Neal told WXIA. He added he is going to buy the family furniture, some television sets, and “I’m going to pay her rent off for the year.”

    Isaiah and Damean Spear, 15, were shot Aug. 17 after a high school football game between Mays and Carver. 

    Damean was shot in the leg and has been released from the hospital, but Isaiah has been there since the shooting. 

    Police have charged a 15-year-old in the shooting. He hasn’t been identified because he’s a juvenile.

    Police said they believe the teen may have been firing at someone else when he struck the boys. Authorities are still searching for that person.

    Isaiah, who was shot in the spine, will need long-term disability care.

    “It could have been any one of us,” O’Neal told WXIA. “It could have been my son. It could’ve been your cousin.”

    O’Neal said Papa John’s CEO Rob Lynch and Jeff Smith, chairman of the board of Papa John’s, also chipped in.

    O’Neal is a member of the board of directors for Papa John’s and serves as the company’s brand ambassador. He has invested in nine pizza locations throughout metro Atlanta.

    Isaiah, meanwhile, is eager to see his Sylvan Middle School teammates play football again. But doctors say he needs another surgery, Wood told WSB-TV.

    On Oct. 7, Atlanta police put a billboard on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive offering a $10,000 reward for information about the shooting, Atlanta police Capt. Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel said. A second sign is going up on Hank Aaron Drive in the hopes of getting information about the second shooter, she said.

    Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477.

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