Aspiring athlete’s life altered after shooting at Clayton County football game

High school senior remains hopeful he can beat the odds
Isaiah Thomas was shot during an attempted robbery Friday evening at a Clayton County high school football game.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Isaiah Thomas was shot during an attempted robbery Friday evening at a Clayton County high school football game.

Doctors caring for an 18-year-old said they are unsure if he’ll ever be able to walk again after he was shot last Friday at a Clayton County high school football game.

But even as Isaiah Thomas remains in the hospital with a spinal cord injury and a bullet lodged in his back, he has not lost hope.

“He’s not accepting at all that he won’t be able to walk again. He tells us all the time that he’s going to be OK, he’s going to be great, he’s going to be fine, and he’s going to walk again,” Thomas’ older sister, Tatiana Brimidge, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday.

The Dutchtown High School senior was shot at around 10:25 p.m. Aug. 18 in the Tara Stadium parking lot on Battle Creek Road, where Jonesboro was playing Mt. Zion, the school district said. According to investigators, the shooting was the result of an attempted robbery. No information was provided about the suspected shooter.

Thomas went to the game with his 13-year-old brother Mason Foster and a friend to support his old high school. It ended early due to several fights breaking out inside the stadium, Brimidge said, and fighting continued into the parking lot even after officers asked everyone to leave the premises. The AJC has asked the school district about the alleged fights, but has not heard back.

To avoid the chaos, Thomas, his little brother and the friend walked away from the parking lot to catch a ride home. Brimidge said Foster and the friend were walking just a few feet ahead of Thomas, who was looking down at his phone tracking the ride-share driver.

“(Thomas) was looking down at his phone, and then when he looked up, the gunman had a gun to his arm on his left side, and he basically just told him to give him everything or he was gonna kill him,” Brimidge said.

Thomas was given no opportunity to respond, his sister said, before the gunman shot him three times and ran away. The bullets struck Thomas in the arm, lung and spine. Brimidge said the suspect did not take anything during the encounter.

Foster and his friend took off running as soon as they heard the gunfire. But after realizing his brother wasn’t right beside him, Foster turned around and saw Thomas lying on the floor. He tried to help, but Thomas begged him to find cover.

“Isaiah was lucid at that time and so he told him to go hide ... because he didn’t know if the gunman was still around, if he was going to try to hurt Mason,” Brimidge said. The 13-year-old didn’t listen, and instead remained with his big brother until the moment the ambulance took him away.

As a friend drove her to Grady Memorial Hospital, Brimidge said she wondered if she would ever be able to speak to Thomas again, fearing the worst. It was a relief to arrive and learn that not only was Thomas alive, but that he was speaking only hours after the shooting.

Any news regarding her brother is good news, Brimidge said, because “we came out on the better side of things.” But she said doctors don’t think Thomas will ever walk again.

“A very nice doctor talked to him here and just told him, ‘Miracles do happen that scientists can’t say. I’m just telling you what I see, and from what I see, that your injury is very severe,’” she recalled.

Thomas, who turned 18 in May, told his family he is thankful to be alive. They are gathering funds for his rehabilitation at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta via a GoFundMe campaign, although Brimidge said it’s not clear when Thomas will be released from Grady.

Despite everything, she said he is holding on to dreams of playing basketball in college and studying software or mechanical engineering.

“(He is) wanting to pray every day and let his family know he’s not down and he’s not sad and he’s working. Every day he’s working and he’s not giving up,” she said.