Math Civics and Sciences bars student who was shot from graduation | #schoolsaftey

There’s a bullet somewhere in Dashawn Walker’s body. He doesn’t know where it is, but the doctors told him it’s there.

It could be in one of his legs — where nine bullets shattered his bones — or in his torso, where the 10th shot ripped through his intestines.

Walker was shot in late February, while walking home from school in North Philadelphia. He was 17 at the time, and less than a block from home when the shooter jumped out of a gray Nissan and opened fire. A 13-year-old girl was also shot in the arm by a stray bullet.

He was in a coma at Temple University Hospital for two days, and in the intensive care unit for a week. He spent a month at Temple, then another at Shriner’s Hospital for Children’s rehabilitation center. There, he relearned how to walk, his legs now held together with metal rods. He endured more than a dozen surgeries, and lived three months with a colostomy bag. He still struggles with anxiety, depression, and nightmares.

At first, Walker worried how he’d make it through the final months of high school. But through his recovery, his teachers and counselors at Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School worked with him so he could finish his work remotely and graduate in May.

Dashawn Walker was shot 10 times in February in Philadelphia. He was 17 years old at the time and a senior in high school. He spent the final few months of school recovering and relearning how to walk.. … Read moreJessica Griffin / Staff Photographer

But the day after the shooting, Veronica Joyner, the school’s founder and chief administrator, watched the local news with concern. She worried for Walker, a student she personally interviewed and admitted to her school, and she couldn’t understand why someone would shoot him so many times, she said.

Then she heard the police captain say that Walker was targeted.

Immediately, Joyner said, she and her board members determined that Walker couldn’t return to in-person schooling or events, including prom and graduation. Because police said he was targeted, she said, she worried that his shooters may return and felt his presence was a danger.

“If you’re a target, do I bring that target around other people and get them caught up in a shooting?” Joyner asked. “We would be placing others at risk by having him around.”

Veronica Joyner, founder and chief administrative officer of the Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School, speaks during the graduation ceremony at the Temple University Performing Arts Center on June 8.. … Read moreJessica Griffin / Staff Photographer

Walker said the man who police say shot him — 20-year-old Micah Roane, who is now facing murder charges — lives in his neighborhood, but he’s never spoken with him and doesn’t know why Roane came after him that day.

“Maybe he was looking for someone with the same hoodie as me, or the same backpack as me,” Walker said. “I just know me and this guy never had no conversation, no argument, no bad blood, no fight over no girl, nothing.”

Instead of being supported by his school, Walker said, he felt like he was blamed for what happened to him.

“I was the victim, and I felt like I was the problem,” he said in an interview.

Capt. James Kearney, head of the Police Department’s nonfatal shooting unit, said that while surveillance video of the shooting indicates that Roane targeted Walker, investigators don’t know why. Walker has never been in trouble with the law, Kearney said.

“He seemed like a good kid,” Kearney said.

Prosecutors, too, said they have no indication Walker was involved in any violence or ongoing neighborhood feuds.

“There is no information that indicates the victim is involved in any criminal activity,” said Jane Roh, spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office.

“Regardless, there’s no reason we could justify what happened to him,” Roh said. “It’s an unacceptable, outrageous act of violence, and it’s a tragedy. And there’s no reason any institution should be treating him like he is also a defendant.”

It’s an example of the layers of trauma survivors of gun violence often endure — forced to balance not only their physical and emotional recovery, but also the stigma and shame of being shot.

“It made me feel like I’m nothing, like I deserve nothing,” Walker said.

But it also shows the drastic measures an educator might be moved to take in a city overwhelmed with shootings. Joyner said she stands by her decision, especially in light of the shooting at a high school graduation in Virginia last week in which a teen and his stepfather were killed.

“I’m looking at the violence in this city and making a decision not to place everyone at risk,” she said in an interview. “It’s a safety issue. The only thing I could do was protect everyone else.”

Dashawn Walker attempting to pick up his diploma from his high school, located at Broad and Spring Garden Streets.. … Read moreJessica Griffin / Staff Photographer

‘He’s so hurt’

Walker was born and raised in North Philadelphia. For the first three years of high school, he attended Vaux Big Picture High School, but after an uptick in violence nearby, he and his mom sought a transfer to Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter, near Broad and Spring Garden Streets.

Joyner, who founded the school in 1999, said she interviewed Walker three times before admitting him.

“I was impressed with him because he’s not one to give up,” she said.

Walker enjoyed the school, he said, and Feb. 21 was a good day like any other. He waited for his friend outside, and they took the subway up to the Temple University stop before walking remaining blocks home.

Walker was a block from home when everything changed. He remembers that a few boys he didn’t know were in front of him. He looked ahead and saw that the screen door to his house was open, and his mom was carrying in groceries. There was a school bus in the street.

Mildred Brockington and her youngest son stand at the location where her son Dashawn Walker was shot 10 times.. … Read moreJessica Griffin / Staff Photographer

Then suddenly a gray Nissan pulled up, and police say Roane jumped out of the front passenger seat and started firing. Walker fell to the ground. Roane walked toward him and continued firing as Walker lay face down, then he jumped back in the car and fled.

A witness immediately recognized Roane as the shooter, police said. The witness, who was not identified in court records, told police they knew Roane from the neighborhood and recognized his gait and voice as he yelled an expletive at Walker while shooting.

The records say recovered video shows Roane in the hours before the shooting wearing clothes and shoes that match those worn by the person on video who shot Walker. When police searched Roane’s home, the records say, they found those clothes behind a couch, as well as a 9mm handgun. The records say Roane is affiliated with other people who have been involved in shootings in the area.

Roane has been charged with attempted murder, illegal gun possession, and numerous other crimes. He remains in custody at the city jail, and court records show prosecutors have referred the case to a grand jury, likely to protect witnesses in the case.

Roane’s lawyer, Michael Diamondstein, said Roane denies the allegations.

“It’s unfortunate the commonwealth chose to proceed by secret grand jury,” he said. “We really don’t know what he’s accused of doing.”

Investigators say they don’t know why Roane went after Walker that day. Roh, of the District Attorney’s Office, said Walker is “by all accounts, a purely innocent victim who is not involved in the game whatsoever.”

Walker said he called Joyner and tried to explain, but she wouldn’t budge.

“My heart goes out to Dashawn, but I didn’t create the situation,” Joyner said in an interview. “My actions didn’t involve me in something that got me shot.”

Joyner has made headlines in Philadelphia before. Earlier this year, the Education Law Center sued the school after lawyers said Joyner expelled a girl for getting into a heated argument with her classmates, though a judge ultimately sided with the school. And in 2019, the same group sued the school alleging it barred a 6-year-old from enrolling because she required services for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.

Joyner said her school has proven success. It regularly has a 100% graduation rate, and this year, all graduates were accepted into college. Its mock trial team was recently named international champions.

Veronica Joyner speaks in front of students from the Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School during the graduation ceremony at the Temple University Performing Arts Center on June 8.. … Read moreJessica Griffin / Staff Photographer

Joyner said Walker should be grateful the school helped ensure he graduated.

“We didn’t let him drop out. He received a computer and the teachers were instructed to work with him through the hospitalization,” she said. “I’m handing him a diploma, a lifeline, and that’s where the focus should be. … I have put him on the side to go to college, get a good job. He now has a ticket.”

She added: “It’s not a requirement that I provide him with a graduation or prom. It’s a privilege.”

Walker said that after he was shot, several friends told him that Joyner asked them how he could afford a designer backpack and shoes, plus a prom suit that cost a few thousand dollars. Walker believes she was insinuating he was selling drugs or involved with crime to pay for those items.

Mildred Brockington, Walker’s mother, said she works hard to help her son buy nice things so he can fit in with the styles at school. And because prom is important to their community, parents regularly spend thousands on it.

“He’s so hurt,” Brockington said. “She is treating him like a criminal.”

Joyner denied saying anything about Walker’s clothes. But she did question the cost of his prom suit when speaking with The Inquirer.

“Where does it come from? You live in North Philadelphia,” she said.

Hundreds of children and families gathered at the graduation ceremony for Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School. The school’s founder Veronica Joyner said she needed to make sure everyone was safe, especially in light of the recent shooting at a graduation in Virginia.. … Read moreJessica Griffin / Staff Photographer

‘You’re strong’

On June 8, Walker’s classmates walked across the stage to pick up their diplomas, while he sat at home, heartbroken. His name was printed in the graduation pamphlet, but it wasn’t read aloud.

It felt like a repeat of prom night, he said, when his friends FaceTimed him from the ballroom, while he was in bed.

Walker said the experience has added another layer of anguish to his recovery. He has a full metal rod in his right leg, and half a rod in his left leg. Now three months later, he can only walk for a few minutes before pain shoots up his legs, and he gets out of breath.

He can’t trust anyone except his family, he said, and has anxiety leaving home. In his nightmares, he sees the moments after he was shot. Like the police officer who put him in the back of the cruiser, then told him while on the way to the hospital, “This is your chance to tell me now who shot you, because you might not make it.”

But he also remembers the woman at Temple, who held his hand when he first arrived.

“You’re not gonna die,” she told him. “You’re strong, baby, I promise.”

Walker was accepted into Shippensburg University, in central Pennsylvania, and hopes to start in the fall, studying business or health care. And he wants to start an emotional support group called Redemption for gun violence survivors.

He knows he can’t turn back time and change Joyner’s mind, but he wants her to know the harm her actions brought him. Most of all, though, he just wants to move forward with his life, he said, and be a teenager — away from Philadelphia.

Dashawn Walker sits with his little brother, Jayden Brockington.. … Read moreJessica Griffin / Staff Photographer

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