OAKLAND — Christopher Rodriguez hasn't felt the ground beneath his feet in days. Pain lingers at night as he lies in his hospital bed, his father says, and he can't yet eat or drink.

The 10-year-old boy has endured unthinkable confusion and discomfort since a stray bullet interrupted his Thursday afternoon piano lesson, severing his spinal cord. But Christopher's most painful moment may be yet to come: when he learns he probably won't walk, skateboard or sprint down the basketball court again.

"He doesn't know that he's permanently crippled yet," said his father, Richard Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said Monday he wanted to give his son some time before telling him the complete truth. "If you break his spirit now, he may never heal properly at the top," he said.

The solidly built, well-liked and active fifth-grader was finishing a piano lesson at a music school at Piedmont Avenue and Pleasant Valley when someone fired gunshots across the street after robbing a gas station.

One bullet pierced the wall of Harmony Road Music School and hit Christopher in the abdomen. Two others struck his mother's car as she waited outside. His mother, Jennifer Rodriguez, was not hurt.

Doctors at Children's Hospital-Oakland say Christopher will be permanently paralyzed.

Police say 24-year-old Jared Lacey Adams fired the bullets after robbing the Chevron gas station and car wash. Adams was charged Monday with five felonies, including robbery and attempted murder, that could put him in prison for the rest of his life.


Advertisement

Adams appeared in court on Monday, but he did not enter a plea. He is scheduled to return at 9 a.m. today at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland.

Rodriguez said he tries not to look at the photos of the man accused of harming his son. "I don't want to develop hate in my heart," he said.

His heart twinged, he said, when he overheard Christopher telling a nurse he played center on the Crocker Highlands Elementary School basketball team. Afterward, "He said, 'Daddy, I don't want to be paralyzed,' and I didn't respond to him."

In addition to the emotional and physical toll, the Rodriguez family faces an enormous financial burden. Aside from the considerable medical bills, the family needs to buy a special van to accommodate a wheelchair. They need to move to a one-story home. And one of Christopher's parents might have to take time off work to care for him after he is released from the hospital.

On Wednesday, Crocker Highlands Elementary School will be holding a bake sale and donation drive to help the Rodriguez family, beginning at 1:30 p.m. Crocker Highlands Elementary School is located at 525 Midcrest Road, off Mandana Boulevard.

A trust fund has been created in Christopher's name at the Piedmont Avenue branch of Wells Fargo bank. Friends and community members are planning fundraising concerts and creating a Web site to update the public on the boy's condition.

"You try to do the right thing for your kid, you know?" Christopher's father said Monday. "You send him to music school. Then something like this happens, and it just shatters your whole life."

Reporters Angela Woodall and Harry Harris contributed to this story.