‘A very scary moment’


It was a nightmare of a phone call that made Demerio Houston consider giving up on his professional football dream.

Last week, three bullets pierced through Houston’s family home in Charlotte, N.C., two of which were inches away from killing his son and daughter.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Demerio Houston was on the phone with is wife when his 12-year-old daughter was shot. ‘I just panicked,’ the defensive back said.</p>
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JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Demerio Houston was on the phone with is wife when his 12-year-old daughter was shot. ‘I just panicked,’ the defensive back said.

It was 1:30 a.m. in North Carolina and the first-year Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back was on the phone with his wife Ashley. Neither of them were aware of the shots until their 12-year-old daughter Hi’Lynn left her bedroom to find her mother. Hi’Lynn, who had her legs up when she was sleeping, was shot in the thigh. Another bullet hit the ceiling fan in their son Jace’s room and went into the headboard right above his head. The third bullet went into the attic.

“(Ashley) told me that she thought my daughter Hi’Lynn was shot. We play that (video) game Fortnite, don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but it’s a kids shooting game and I thought that’s what she was referring to,” Houston told reporters after Tuesday’s practice at IG Field.

“I was like ‘Well it’s late, I don’t think she should be up playing at one o’clock in the morning’ and she was like ‘No, she’s really been shot.’ So I kind of panicked and she was trying to get the kids situated and get Hi’Lynn out the house and get her to the hospital. She got off the phone with me, called her mom and was calling 911. I called the coaches to let them know I wanted to go home. I needed to check on my family.”

In the midst of the chaos over the phone, Houston thought he had heard Hi’Lynn had been struck in the head, which thankfully, was not the case. A detective informed the family if Hi’Lynn was laying down flat on her bed, there’s a good chance the bullet would’ve hit her in the chest or higher.

“At the time I thought she was shot in the head. I just panicked, and was freaking out,” said Houston, a product of Southern University who’s currently on the Bombers practice roster.

“I’m here in Canada. I’m a whole 24 hours away, away from my family. And that was just a scary moment. At the time, football, that’s my love, but at the time it was not on my mind. I was just trying to get home to my family.”

Houston’s family, which also includes six-month old baby boy Campbell, has left the home and are now in Winnipeg staying with him in an apartment. Hi’Lynn still has the bullet in her leg as it’s close to the bone, but they’re hopeful she’ll have surgery this week. “The first day she was kind of not wanting to sleep. She was saying, ‘I can’t sleep, because the last time I was asleep I almost lost my life.’ But now that she’s here, in a different environment and with me and her mom, protected, she’s better. She’s back to normal, acting goofy as always,” he said.

“Things are better, and getting better.”

Life on the practice squad is unpredictable as is, so Houston isn’t sure what the future holds for his family, but for the time being, they’re happy to be in the Manitoba capital.

“We’re just trying to do what’s best for our kids and the family and making sure we get Hi’Lynn the best treatment,” he said. “Right now they’re adjusting. They actually like Winnipeg.”

With his family in town, Houston can now breathe a sigh of relief and return his focus to football.

“The first day (after) it actually happened, I was here for practice, but I wasn’t here, mentally. My mind was on my family… After that, knowing that my family is here with me now, I’m able to focus and continue to do what I love with the people I love,” he said.

Houston praised his teammates and coaches for helping him get through the challenging week.

“Very foreign to me obviously, and I’d say to most Canadians, given our gun laws. It’s difficult. You can’t ever say you know what he’s going through by any stretch of the imagination,” said head coach Mike O’Shea.

“It’s horrible. It’s a terrible thing not only for his entire family, but his daughter specifically, to be 12 years old and have that reality for the rest of her life. So, you just give them all the options and you try to facilitate anything that he needs done. Just be there. Have your door open. Let him use your phone. Whatever it is.”

Ashley started a GoFundMe page on the weekend to help raise money to cover the expenses of the shooting. As of Tuesday evening, $2,020 US had been raised, nearly halfway to their goal of $5,000 US. Houston may be new to Winnipeg, but Bomberland has wasted no time in helping out.

“Me and my wife definitely have noticed,” Houston said. “I want to just say, for me and my family, we greatly appreciate the prayers, the GoFundMe and everything — we greatly appreciate it.”

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

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