Former basketball star Shaquille O’Neal is extending help to a boy who was paralyzed as a result of a shooting during a high school football game.
O’Neal has provided a year’s rent for a new home for the Atlanta family.
Isaiah Payton, 12, was hit by stray gunfire as he was leaving a football game in August. Isaiah was shot through the spine after the football game between two high schools and has been in a hospital ever since.
Isaiah’s mother, Allison Woods, has said re-learning how to care for Isaiah meant she had to leave her job, adding financial stress to her emotional turmoil.
O’Neal told WXIA-TV that Payton’s family had been living in a one-bedroom apartment that wasn’t accessible for people with disabilities. Now they have a home in a good neighborhood. O’Neal says he’s helping furnish the home and will pay its rent for the next year.
“This was a reckless, heartless, and cowardly act of violence that forever changed the life of a 12-year-old child and his family and deeply affected another juvenile,” said Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields, according to WTSP.
O’Neal told the A-Scene’s Francesca Amiker: “I reached out to the family because I wanted to see the son and I said he’s not going to release the sign until she’s able to move on the first floor. So, we found her a house. I’m going to pay her rent for the year and I’m going to give her some furniture, and it’s sad because her son is paralyzed from the chest down and no mother should have to go through that.”
O’Neal spoke about why the tragedy touched him.
“I was watching the story and it’s just sad. It could have been any one of us. It could have been my son. It could’ve been your cousin and she was living in a one-bedroom apartment with her two boys so we found her a house in College Park. Nice area. I’m going to get her some Ring cameras, on me. We’re going to give her some furniture, TVs and pay her rent off for a year and help her get on her feet,” the former NBA star said.
Atlanta Police arrested a 15-year-old boy on Oct. 16 in connection with the shooting.
A GoFundMe page was established to help Payton, with the boy’s mother saying in a statement: “My son, Isaiah Payton, is an active 12-year-old kid who loves sports such as football and basketball. He dreamed of being a football player when he grew up. Unfortunately, while attending a high school football game, he was shot twice; in the chest and near his liver. He has been in the hospital for two weeks, is currently unable to breathe on his own, paralyzed from the chest down, undergoing many tests, and is on a feeding tube. Any donation you make will help make a difference towards his treatments and medical bills.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.