Semi-pro football player shot during game at Gwinnett park

Rusty Duffee (center) has a bullet lodged in his neck after being shot last week during his semi-professional football game at a Gwinnett County Park
Rusty Duffee (center) has a bullet lodged in his neck after being shot last week during his semi-professional football game at a Gwinnett County Park

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Man says shoulder pads saved his life

A metro Atlanta man says he’s lucky to be alive after being shot in the neck last weekend during a semi-professional football game at a Gwinnett County park.

Russell “Rusty” Duffee was standing on the sideline at Lenora Park on Sunday evening when a man wearing a mask ran onto the field and began shooting at a car nearby, witnesses told police. Two people inside the car shot back, and the 24-year-old father was caught in the crossfire.

Duffee, who played center, told Channel 2 Action News the shooting was the result of some earlier trash talk that got out of hand.

“In semi-pro football, things get a little testy,” he told the news station.

Duffee was on the sideline waiting to get back in the game when the bullet ripped through his shoulder pads and into his neck. His 5-year-old son was sitting nearby when the shooting occurred.

“The only thing I remember is gunfire, falling, and then sky and light,” he said Friday, adding doctors told him he likely would have been killed if not for his shoulder pads. “They actually said that’s probably one of the things that slowed it down and probably saved my life ... They all told me that I was a walking miracle.”

Gwinnett County police said Duffee’s pads were on the ground next to him when they arrived at the scene. Officers noticed a bullet hole near the collar, according to an incident report. Shell casings were found on the field and on Lenora Church Road.

Doctors told the 24-year-old father that his shoulder pads likely saved his life.
Doctors told the 24-year-old father that his shoulder pads likely saved his life.

Credit: GoFundMe

Credit: GoFundMe

Duffee broke two vertebrae when he fell, and the gunman’s bullet remains lodged near his carotid artery. Doctors told him it would be too risky to remove it, he said in a GoFundMe page set up to help cover his medical bills and expenses while he’s out of work the next two months.

Though his football career is likely over, Duffee said he’s willing to forgive the person who shot him and doesn’t want him locked up.

“I’d rather sit face to face with him, shake hands and say, ‘You know what? I forgive you,’ " he told Channel 2. “Let’s do something. Let’s make this life the best we can.”

Gwinnett police said the shooting remains under investigation.

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