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Chris Rodriguez is surrounded by classmates during a visit to his elementary school on Tuesday April 1, 2008 in Oakland, California. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

OAKLAND — First he heard a loud bang, and then he fell backward off the piano bench.

Another student at Harmony Road Music School began "freaking out," and Christopher Rodriguez said he "felt like my stomach was grumbling a lot."

Rodriguez, 11, said he was confused but realized in an instant that he could neither help himself back up nor feel his legs.

"Every time I tried to move (my legs) it just felt real heavy," Rodriguez said as he testified Monday in the trial of Jared Adams, 25, accused of shooting the boy during a botched robbery attempt last year. "My mom came in and she said wherever I am God is, and all is well."

Adams is accused of several felony crimes, including attempted murder and carjacking.

Rodriguez, the second witness in the case, spoke about the day he was shot in the spine while taking piano lessons and the struggles that followed.

Rodriguez gave a poised account of how he became paralyzed at the hand of a man trying to rob a gas station across the street.

He talked in detail about the commotion surrounding him as he sat on a bench at the music school soon after he was shot and how he was taken on a gurney to the hospital.

"(My mom) was crouched on her knees. I just kept asking her what happened, and all she said was, 'Calm down, calm down,'"‰" Rodriguez said. "(My dad) was just standing in the corner trying to figure out what happened. He was in shock."


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Rodriguez talked in a matter-of-fact manner and never shed a tear as he discussed everything from waking up after surgery with a tube in his mouth and how he must take medication every day to counter sharp bursts of pain from his lower back.

He talked about how he never fully knew what happened to him until two weeks after the shooting and how he began to cry when told he would not leave Children's Hospital Oakland walking.

"I asked my dad if I was going to leave walking or in the wheelchair, and he said I would leave in a wheelchair, and that made me sad," Rodriguez said, admitting that the news had made him cry.

Rodriguez was paralyzed when an errant bullet fired by Adams flew across the street through a wall and into his back, prosecutors have said. The bullet chipped a portion of his spinal cord and split a series of nerves, which left him unable to move his legs but still capable of feeling intense pain, he said.

Adams is accused of robbing the gas station across the street from the music school and is charged with attempted murder on suspicion of shooting his gun at an attendant there. He is also charged with carjacking former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata while Perata sat at a traffic light at the intersection of 51st Street and Telegraph Avenue.

Adams faces life in prison and will have to face testimony from two former co-defendants, both of whom took plea deals in exchange for their testimony against Adams.

Adams placed his head in his hands at various points of Rodriguez's testimony.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez never once bowed his head and on numerous occasions glared at Adams.

Rodriguez, who attends the Oakland School of the Arts, said he is trying to adapt to life in a wheelchair. He recently joined a wheelchair basketball team and continues to play piano at school.

He said he has some movement in his knee and hips and goes to physical therapy five times a week to work on his upper body strength and to practice moving his legs, both of which are painful.

His mother, Jennifer, took the stand after her son and explained how she saw her son injured in the school and talked of the emotional pain she suffers whenever her son has a pain attack.

"It is awful to see a child scream in pain each night," she said with tears in her eyes. "To see him look like that at you thinking, 'What did I do? Why me?' It is just awful."