PORTSMOUTH, Va. – A 25-year-old Portsmouth man who helped raise money for families of the Virginia Beach mass shooting has become a victim of gun violence.
Jerry Harding and three other men made a cross-country trek from Santa Monica, California, to Virginia Beach in 2019. It was to honor the victims and help raise funds for their families.
“The opportunity to help people was presented to me, and I don’t normally pass it up,” explained Harding. “Whether it’s helping an old lady crossing the street with groceries or walking across the United States for somebody.”
However, less than two weeks ago on June 23, Harding was shot in the chest. He was released from the hospital over the weekend.
Harding spoke to News 3, noticeably out of breath at times and still recovering. He says the bullet went through him.
“100 percent, I thought I was going to die,” stated Harding.
His mother, Lahoma Dixon, knows she is blessed to still have her son here.
“I’m grateful to God that he is alive,” said Dixon, fighting away tears.
She said her son is scared to go to sleep for fear that he won’t wake up because of the injuries.
Harding said it happened during an altercation outside his home in Portsmouth. He said he had seen the teenager who shot him before but did not know him.
“The way that this world is, at the end of the day, if you don’t like something or somebody has something to say, keep to yourself because you don’t know what people are thinking these days or how crazy they are,” Harding said.
Harding and his family say that police have made an arrest, but they are awaiting further information on the case.
Meantime, Dixon wants her son, who owns his own carpentry business, to take time to heal and not have to worry about immediate finances. She has set up a GoFundMe account and said she is grateful for any donations.
Harding said his 2-year-old son helps keep him motivated. In the hospital, he asked staff to wheel him outside to be able to visit with him, as young children are not allowed in certain areas of the hospital.
“The FaceTimes just weren’t cutting it. You know, you can’t give your son any love over FaceTime and give him a hug and a kiss.”
Harding says looking back at the shooting incident, he could have walked away instead of defending himself. He also said he would forgive the shooter.
“If he came to me right now, I’d accept his apology. You know what I’m saying? He just made a bad mistake,” said Harding. “I was 16 at one point, too. I did a lot of things that I regret.”