Ondelee Perteet’s dreams of becoming the next Michael Phelps were shattered when the high school swimmer was shot and paralyzed at a West Side birthday party.
No longer able to play sports or chase girls like a typical teenage boy, Perteet, who is now mostly confined to a wheelchair, feels like a “baby all over again” since he’s been forced to wear diapers and relearn how to move his body in painful therapy sessions.
“I’m a kid, at least I was; now I have to be a grown man at a very young age,” Perteet, 17, said in his victim impact statement that was read in court before the teenager responsible for his debilitating injures was sentenced to 20 years in prison Friday.
“All I could do is cry [when I woke up in the hospital]. Tears rolled down the side of my face and I couldn’t even wipe them off.”
When Perteet’s mother, Deetreena, grew emotional reading the end of her son’s five-page statement that detailed his physical turmoil and the family’s struggles to pay his medical bills, Cook County Judge Jorge Alonso handed her a tissue.
Robert Sansberry’s mother also took the stand to speak on behalf of her 17-year-old son.
“Please be lenient with my baby,” she urged Alonso. “We need him home. He’s not a monster.”
Sansberry expressed remorse for shooting Perteet in the jaw after he was booted from a party on Sept. 5, 2009 for being disruptive.
Sansberry faced a maximum of 30 years in prison.
Perteet was paralyzed from the neck down as result of the shooting. He can now take a few steps with the help of a four-pronged cane, but as he told the judge: “This is not a walk in the park by no means. Every day is a struggle.”
As he rolled his wheelchair out of the Criminal Courts building, Pertreet, who often speaks to his peers about gun violence, said he has forgiven Sansberry
“It’s been hard to forgive somebody that tried to kill me,” Pertreet said. “It’s not easy but I had to. I had no choice. That’s the only way I can heal, the only way I can move forward. I can’t hate. I hate what he did but I don’t hate him.”