As a 21-year-old mother of two, Semantha Bunce would do anything to protect her son and daughter from harm. And when intruders broke into her home, that resolve was put to the ultimate test. But when those trespassers opened fire, they got the shock of their lives and quickly realized that they had messed with the wrong mom.
In November 2015 Semantha was at home in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was a Tuesday morning and her daughter, Bailee, was at school, while her husband, Paul, a medical technician, was at work. Semantha was tending to their newborn son, four-month-old Bentley.
Semantha was breastfeeding her son when two armed intruders broke into her home. It’s no doubt an understatement to say such an occurrence would be a shock to anyone. But for a young mom nursing a child, the situation must have been particularly traumatic.
But Semantha was quick-witted. She was able to rapidly put the infant into his crib in the bedroom, before grabbing a gun belonging to her husband. Remaining as calm as she could in such a precarious situation, she prepared herself for whatever the trespassers had in store.
As the men reached the stairs, they began shooting at Semantha, who was by the bedroom door. Bullets struck the 21-year-old twice. And yet, despite her serious injuries, there was just one thing on the young mom’s mind. Her only objective was to protect her son.
Undeterred, Semantha returned fire with her own weapon. It was enough to ward off the assailants and see her child remain safe in the bedroom. So fierce was the gunfire exchange, however, that a neighbor’s house was caught in the crossfire, with a bullet puncturing the bedroom wall of the home next door.
“I heard a bunch of gunshots, you know, ‘Boom, boom, boom, boom,’ and I started calling 911,” John Marshall, Semantha’s next door neighbor told ABC News. “I was so scared.” Marshall was lucky not to take a direct hit from the gunshots. Semantha, however, received two bullet wounds.
Semantha was rushed to the Carolinas Medical Center. Though it’s not clear how long she was a patient in the hospital, it is known that she spent a portion of it in the ICU and received several surgeries to treat her injuries. Her son, however, was completely unharmed in the raid.
Paul Bunce described his wife to local news channel WCNC as “a fighter, she never gives up.” Further to this, he explained to Charlotte’s WSOC, “I think it was a shock to the intruders just as much as it was to her.” Indeed, whatever their motives, surely the assailants couldn’t have expected to get shot at that morning.
So what was it that inspired the mom’s quick thinking? Well, Semantha is a member of the National Guard, Paul went on to explain, working as a combat medic. He thinks that as a result of her training, she was able to remain calm and focused when her life – and her baby’s – depended on it.
Police believe that Semantha was the victim of an unprovoked home invasion. Reports suggest that the assailants first rang the bell, then booted down the front door of the Bunces’ house before they opened fire on the young mom. Once she had fought the intruders off, they went on the run.
Four days later, however, 23-year-old Reco Latur Dawkins Jr. handed himself in to the police over the incident. After questioning, he was detained and later charged with attempted murder as well as breaking and entering offences. Bail was set at $1 million by a local judge.
Though it’s believed a second assailant was involved in the break-in, Dawkins was the only one to turn himself in. With two prior break-in convictions to his name, the perpetrator was also believed to have been involved in a further three incidents in 2014. However, in each of those cases the charges were dismissed.
An anonymous victim in one of Dawkins’ previous cases told WSOC in November 2015, “We know they were attempting [burglaries]. That’s the part that gets a little bit frustrating because we know the guys were free after this.” She believes that Bunce’s incident would never have happened had Dawkins previously been prosecuted.
Hollie Ritchie, a friend and National Guard colleague wrote of Semantha on a GoFundMe page, “She is an amazing person, mother, wife, friend and soldier. [She] would do anything for anyone and give you the shirt off her back if you needed it. When I heard that she was the victim in a home invasion, I was completely devastated.”
“It’s a shock to find something going on like that just a few houses down,” an anonymous neighbor remarked to WSOC. Semantha’s recovery would be a slow one. And with two gunshot wounds to recuperate from, she found that her breast milk production had reduced.
As a result of her diminished breast milk, however, Semantha received support in ways she could never have imagined. As she explained to ABC News, “I’ve had women reach out to me and offer to donate breast milk to us so [my son] didn’t have to suffer.”
After the incident on the Bunces’ home, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department stepped up patrols in the area. Captain Chuck Henderson revealed there had been a handful of break-ins locally that year, but that none had been as extreme as the attack that Semantha was victim to.
Semantha wrote on Facebook, “I would love to personally thank each and every one of you for your support during this time. No words can truly express the amount of gratitude I share for each of you during this time of utter tragedy.” She also thanked family and friends who went out of their way to give their help.
Semantha continued, “To those strangers whom I’ve never met, who have taken their generous time to donate and to support my family during this time as well, I appreciate you all equally! Thank you for all the undying support. It means the absolute world to me and my family to have your support during this time of tragedy.”