Buying Cigarettes
I came - I saw - I bought

Cigarettes lead to odd shooting

A nonstop nightmare kept Jack tossing and turning.

Over and over, he dreamed that he'd been shot. And all the while, he kept scratching his leg. Semiconscious, he didn't understand the connection. But sometimes, dreams are weird and wild.

And sometimes, so is life.

It was no dream. The night before, the 42-year-old Peorian got shot after a long night of tavern drinking. But instead of seeking medical help, he just walked home and went to bed. He didn't go to the hospital until the next day.

The reason for the gunfire? A stick-up over a cigarette.

"It was just crazy," he says.

It's even crazier that he escaped more serious injury by double gunfire at point-blank range. And even with the injury, he somehow missed only one day of work.

Jack isn't his real name, which we'll leave out here because he is the victim. He lives in the 800 block of South Olive Street with his wife.

The night of June 12, he spent several hours knocking back drinks at a couple of bars near his residence. According to a police report, he described himself as "extremely intoxicated" when he walked home about 9 p.m.

But just as he was about to step inside his place, he realized he was down to just one cigarette. That wouldn't do. So, he decided to hoof it to a gas station to get a fresh pack of Pall Malls.

At West Antoinette and South Warren streets, he was approached by a male. Jack couldn't describe him much to police, because of his hazy condition that night, But he told me the guy looked to be just 13 or 14 years old.

The youth asked for a cigarette. On Peoria's streets, that's often just a line robbers use to get close to a potential victim. But in this case, the youth seemed legitimately interested in a smoke.

Still, Jack said he couldn't help him out: He had just fired up his final cigarette. Even so, the youth told Jack to hand over the slightly used cigarette. But Jack - 5 feet 7 inches and 130 pounds - declined.

At that, the youth drew a pistol and fired twice. Shocked by the sudden gunshots, Jack felt a sting in his thigh.

"I thought it just grazed me," Jack says.

At that, his memory again gets a little foggy, as can happen with a mix of heavy drinking and sudden gunplay. As he best recalls now, the gunman ran off.

"So I ran the other way," Jack says.

First, though, the attacker might've snatched Jack's cigarette, plus $7 in pocket money. Both were gone by the time Jack got home. As an officer wrote in a report, "It is unknown if the suspect took (Jack's) cigarette or the missing $7, as Jack stated he could have lost either in his hasty escape."

As Jack walked though his front door, his leg burned. But, though he'd never been shot before, he didn't think it was a big deal. So, without mentioning anything to his wife, he crawled into bed and went to sleep.

Jack slumbered for about seven hours, but had fitful sleep all the while.

"I kept dreaming I got shot," he says. "I woke up and thought I'd dreamed everything. But it wasn't a dream."

Meantime, he'd been scratching his thigh like crazy.

"I was itchy," he says. "I woke up, and it was itchy."

He took a closer look at his thigh. What he'd thought to be a bullet graze was actually an entry wound.

"It was bleeding, but it wasn't pouring out," he says.

Yet he could not find an exit wound.

"So, I thought I still had a bullet in me," he says.

As Jack examined the wound, his mom - who lives with the couple - asked what had happened. When he mentioned a bullet, she demanded to take him to a hospital immediately.

In the emergency room at Methodist Medical Center, doctors found an exit wound on the other side of his thigh: the shot had been through-and-through. They cleaned and bandaged his wounds, then gave him intravenous antibiotics. A little while later, he was sent home with prescriptions for more antibiotics, plus painkillers.

He spent the next day in bed. The day after that, he went back to his job as an industrial painter. He paints large structures, like bridges and water tanks, so he is on his feet a lot. With holes in his thigh, the past week has been a struggle - especially as his co-workers incessantly razz him about the strange shooting.

Otherwise, he hasn't heard much guff. His wife hasn't said much.

"Not really," Jack says, then chuckles, "except that I'm a dumb (expletive) for walking around the south end late at night."

Published: Tuesday, June 19, 2012

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