Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Date: August 2, 1989
Danny Jr. and Georgia Troy of Indianapolis, Indiana, thought they had prepared their two children well in the event of an emergency. They had taught eight-year-old Deseree and her eleven-year-old brother, Danny III, how to call 911. The children had strict rules against playing outside or having visitors over when they were left alone. But the couple could never have imagined the sort of tragedy that would occur on August 1, 1989.
That afternoon, Deseree and Danny III were home alone watching television while their parents were at work. Georgia called around 3:00 to check on them and they told her everything was fine. A little later, three kids from the neighborhood knocked at the door--a friend of Danny III's, and a boyfriend and girlfriend of Deseree's. The Troy children knew they were not allowed to have visitors, but they let their friends in, and everyone watched television.
Danny III and his friend wandered into his parents' bedroom. The friend spotted a rifle leaning against the wall and picked it up. Danny III told his friend to leave it alone, that it belonged to his father. Danny Jr. kept the rifle accesible in case he ever needed to protect himself or his family. The rifle had been standing in the corner for so long that it had become part of the scenery.
The friend ignored Danny III. He cocked the rifle twice, ejecting two bullets. Then the boy found the chamber and loaded the bullets. Deseree, her female friend, and the little boy came in to see what the older kids were doing and climbed onto her parents' bed. Again, Danny III told the boy to put the gun down. 'C'mon, cock it twice," the boy said to Danny III, "then we'll put it down." "Stop it, Danny," said Deseree. "Put the gun down." She didn't like to see the boys playing with the rifle. But the little boy was enthralled. "Put it down," Deseree told him again. To appease his friend, Danny III cocked the rifle twice and loaded the bullets in the chamber. He set down the rifle, then he and his friend left the room.
Now the little boy wanted a turn with the rifle. He picked it up and tried to cock it like the older boys had done. Danny III ran back into the room and yelled at him to put the rifle down. But before the boy could, he accidently fired it. Danny III looked around frantically to see what the bullet had struck. He was sure it had hit a wall. Then he noticed Deseree. She was lying on the bed, bleeding. She had been shot. While the other terrified children ran out of the house, Danny III dialed 911. His call was answered by 911 operator Denisa Stevenson. Stevenson recalls the panic in Danny III's voice. "My sister's been shot! I think she's dying!" he said.
While police and fire units were dispatched to the scene, Stevenson tried to calm Danny III and keep him on the line. Danny III was frightened and wanted to call his mother at work, but Stevenson instructed him not to hang up. "What's your sister doing?" Stevenson asked. Deseree had climbed off the bed. Danny III told Stevenson that she was trying to walk to him. The dispatcher instructed Danny III to make Deseree lay down and be still. The phone reached to Deseree, so Danny III put the receiver to her ear and Stevenson instructed her to lay still and reassured her that help was on the way.
Police officers Ron Burgess, Jr. and Greg Weber arrived within minutes and knew the situation was critical when they saw Deseree lying in a pool of blood. Paramedic Supervisor Norman Hockley arrived moments later and examined the little girl. He was astonished that she was still alive, considering her extensive blood loss.
Deseree was rushed to Wishard Hospital, where a pediatric surgeon performed emergency surgery. The most critical part of her wound was where the bullet had entered the right side of her abdomen and exited the left side of her chest. She had sustained extensive liver damage and a ruptured spleen. The doctor told the Troys that Deseree had a 5 percent chance of surviving.
When Danny III was allowed to see his sister in the hospital, the first thing he said to her was, "I love you." "I love you, too, " gestured Deseree. By all odds, Deseree should never have made it. But she made a miraculous comeback, and less than two months after the accident, she entered the third grade, a normal, healthy girl. "It's hard to talk about this sometimes," says Deseree, "because it makes me remember how many times it's happened to other kids and they've died and I survived. I thought I was going to die, but I kept on pushing and pushing for myself." Deseree is most appreciative of her brother. "When they told me Danny saved my life, I wanted to jump up and run to him and hug him," she says. "If he didn't call 911, I would have died on the floor."
Since the accident, Danny Jr. and Georgia's attitude about guns have changed. Danny Jr. used to think that having a gun protected his family. Now he realized it almost cost him his daughter's life.