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Stray bullet hits boy taking piano lesson, paralyzing him

  • Story Highlights
  • Christopher Rodriguez, 10, was hit by a bullet during his piano lesson last week
  • Police: Suspect allegedly robbing a gas station near music school
  • The boy, who loves classical music, will likely be paralyzed for life, his doctors say
  • Rodriguez's father: "I feel like half his life was taken from him"
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OAKLAND, California (CNN) -- Fifth-grader Christopher Rodriguez sat down Thursday at his piano for his weekly lesson, arched his fingers over the keys and began to play.


10-year-old Christopher Rodriguez was hit by a stray bullet, paralyzing him for life, doctors say.

Across the street from Harmony Road Music School in north Oakland, California, Jared Adams, 24, allegedly raised his gun at a Chevron gas station attendant during a holdup and fired.

A bullet ripped through the walls of Christopher's classroom striking him in his side, piercing his kidney and spleen and lodging in his spine. The bullet barely missed the 10-year-old's heart.

He will likely be paralyzed for life from the waist down, doctors say.

"This is probably the worst thing that's ever happened to me in my life. I love my son greatly," the boy's father, Richard Rodriguez, said Friday at a news conference. Video Watch Christopher's dad describe the ordeal »

Christopher loved music. He had recently taken up African drumming, spent hours listening to classical music and played basketball.

"I feel like half his life was taken from him; his inability, probably, to walk -- ever," Rodriguez said, his voice breaking.

Christopher's mother, Jennifer Rodriguez, had been waiting outside in her SUV for her son's lesson to end.

She not only heard the shots but came close to being hit herself. At least two bullets from Adams' gun struck her vehicle, police said.

On the phone and distracted, she at first dismissed the noises as someone throwing rocks at her SUV. But when she realized it was gunfire, she dashed into her son's class. Christopher was on the floor, his classmates and instructor hovering over him.

"I can't feel my legs! I can't feel my legs!" Christopher cried.

As emergency workers rushed the boy to the hospital, police were chasing Adams, who was speeding away. Adams rammed his vehicle into a car carrying a woman and her two children and then slammed into a parked car, police said.

The woman and children escaped without injury, according to authorities.

Adams was charged Monday with attempted murder, robbery, evading a police officer, driving recklessly and being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm, Oakland Police Department spokesman Roland Holmgren told CNN.

He's being held without bail, according to Holmgren. CNN was not immediately able to determine whether he had a lawyer.

Authorities found a ski mask, loaded gun and cash at the scene. Adams has prior convictions for driving under the influence and gun possession, records show. He pleaded no contest to felony evading arrest in 2006 for fleeing an Emeryville police officer and had run from or physically resisted a California Highway Patrol officer and police in Albany and Berkeley, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Adams once complained in court that young people raised in the city like himself never got opportunities, the paper also reported.

Adams has been told about Christopher, said Holmgren.

"It doesn't matter whether it's your first day on the street as an officer or a veteran, to see a child doing something as innocent as taking a piano lesson and have this happen to him, it affects your soul," said Holmgren.

Meanwhile, doctors delivered tragic news about Christopher's future.

"He's going to face years of rehabilitation," said Dr. James Betts, chief of surgery at Children's Hospital Oakland. "We are all hoping there will be some degree of recovery. We feel like the injury is permanent, and the paralysis is permanent.

"[It will be] a challenging life for this young boy."

Christopher's friends and fellow music lovers plan to help him.

Harmony Road Music School will hold a benefit concert for the Rodriguez family February 10 at 2 p.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, a place of worship near the school.

"The family is going to have to, essentially, make a home for a disabled child now," said school owner Jim Callahan. "They'll have to change the stairs in their home, make all sorts of expensive adjustments."

Callahan met with instructors at Harmony Road Monday. They are talking about the incident with the students old enough to understand what happened.


Classes have not stopped.

"Music has a healing quality all its own," said Callahan. "We will not be terrorized by this." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Dan Simon and Ashley Fantz contributed to this report.

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