Teen Shooting Victim Reflects on Recovery
By: Aisha Al-Muslim / firstname.lastname@example.org
For Brentwood shooting victim Wilson Batista Jr., turning 15 was sweet indeed.
Wilson - or "Willie," as his parents sometimes call him - celebrated his birthday Saturday at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bay Shore. Those gathered sang "Happy Birthday" and rejoiced that God gave him the chance to celebrate yet another birthday.
"It's like another year I wasn't supposed to be here," said Wilson, who is in ninth grade at the Islip Academic Center, a special education facility in Oakdale.
The teenager is lucky to be alive. At 13, he was shot in the face as he played basketball at Timberline Park in Brentwood on June 15, 2009. Police said he was mistakenly targeted as a rival gang member. He lost his right eye and some cognitive brain function, has poor vision in his left eye and has limited use of his left arm.
The man who wielded the gun that day, Alexander Aguilar, now 19, of Deer Park, who police said belongs to the MS-13 street gang, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Suffolk County Court to first-degree assault.
Aguilar also admitted Wednesday to killing Edgar Villalobos with a machete in a separate case, also in Brentwood, a month after Wilson was shot.
Aguilar is expected to be sentenced March 8 to 21 years to life in prison on his guilty plea to second-degree murder, and 21 years for the assault on Wilson.
"I wanted him to get life in prison because he deserved it," said Wilson, who was in court for the guilty plea.
After the shooting, Wilson was in four hospitals over the course of five months. Doctors initially feared he would never walk again.
But he surpassed their expectations when he tossed aside his wheelchair - and eventually his walking cane.
He credited Dr. Craig Rosenberg and physical therapist John Santora, both at the Institute for Physical Therapy of Southside Hospital's Outpatient Rehabilitation Center, for his strong recovery. For a year, Wilson attended three physical therapy sessions a week at the center.
His mother, Ramona Batista, 50, left her job at a perfume factory to take care of her son. His father, Wilson Batista Sr., 51, took off work as a custodian at Southside Hospital for four months, helped by colleagues who donated their vacation time to him. Wilson also has a sister, Welme, 17.
Of his parents, Wilson said, "They are important because they are here for me."
After all he has gone through, Wilson said he is no longer interested in playing basketball, once his passion. Someday, he said, he hopes to open his own deli.
"I want to live a simple life," he said.