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Dad Tried to Shield 12-Year-Old Boy Shot in Crown Heights Shoe Store

By  Trevor Kapp and Wil Cruz | May 22, 2012 5:37pm 

The scene of a shooting at 298 Utica Ave. May 21, 2012.
The scene of a shooting at 298 Utica Ave. May 21, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Sonja Sharp

CROWN HEIGHTS — A trip to the shoe store to buy new sneakers for school turned into a terrifying saga for a Brooklyn man and his 12-year-old son when they suddenly found themselves in the middle of a standoff between an enraged customer and a security worker.

Brian Harper, 54, the father of a 12-year-old boy wounded in the wild shootout at Rugged Sole at 298 Utica Ave., said he desperately tried to shield his son from the hail of bullets during the Monday night melee.

"I turned and this guy was reaching at his waist and pulled out a gun," Harper said. "I grabbed my son and braced against the wall. We couldn't run, we couldn't duck, we couldn't do anything but stand straight in the corner and hope that nothing hit us as bullets fly."

Cups mark bullets and casings in the Rugged Sole shoe store at 298 Utica Ave. May 21, 2012.
Cups mark bullets and casings in the Rugged Sole shoe store at 298 Utica Ave. May 21, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Sonja Sharp

Harper said approximately eight shots were fired. After the smoke settled, the boy and another innocent bystander, Christopher Townsend, 34, had been hit.

"After it was all over, my son said, 'Daddy, Daddy, my leg,'" Harper said. "I looked at him and saw through his pants he was bleeding, so I said, 'My son got hit!'

"I said to the guy in the store, 'You guys shot my son!'" he added. "And when I ran outside there was nobody in the street."

That's when Harper, whose pants were grazed by a bullet, carried his son into a nearby bakery to use bags to stop the bleeding.

"He looked like he was going to go into shock or something. I wasn't sure," Harper said.

Harper then drove his son to Kings County Hospital, where he was treated and released. Townsend was also treated and released.

The boy's mother, Paula, said he is hurting, but is expected to make a full recovery.

"He's fine," the 55-year-old mom said. "There's a little pain, but he's OK."

"It hurts," Paula Harper said of the boy's wound. "He was scared, but he's very brave."

The family is now considering moving out of the neighborhood, she said.

"It's too soon to tell," Paula Harper said outside her building. "I'm living in this neighborhood since 1989. Lots of things happen. You just have to be careful."

The drama unfolded at approximately 7:30 p.m. Monday when Rugged Sole security guard Kenneth Meeks, 45, of Brownsville, tossed out a customer he accused of loitering in the shoe store, police said.

The customer returned a short time later with a gun and started shooting at Meeks, who pulled out his 9mm. handgun and returned fire, police said.

Meeks was arrested and charged with assault and criminal possession of a weapon, police sources said. He was expected to be arraigned in Brooklyn Criminal Court Tuesday.

The other shooter was still at large, police said.

A manager at Rugged Sole declined to comment on Tuesday.

Pascal Prampin, 38, a neighbor whose young son is a playmate of the victim, said he's an athletic kid who plays basketball enjoys riding his bike.

"He's very outgoing," Prampin said. "He's a smart kid, and his parents are very strict."

Prampin, too, said the boy displayed courage after the shooting.

"He took [the bullet] and said it didn't hurt," he added. "He said, 'I feel like somebody just punched me really hard.'"

Brian Harpe said the shooting was symbolic of the overall problem with guns in the city.

"This is not the wild, wild west," he said. "You know cops are trying to get guns off the streets and are doing the best they can, but how many more kids have to die?"

He added that he's still angry that a simple trip to buy sneakers — the flap of the boy's sneakers were causing him pain because he's outgrowing them — turned into a gun battle.

"But what did he get as the end result?" he said. "He got more pain."