By the time Ross Capicchioni realized that his friend intended to kill him, it was already too late. Having lured him to a rundown neighborhood in a no-go area of Detroit, his friend took aim at him with a loaded shotgun, finger on the trigger. And Capicchioni never saw it coming.
Why would he? The Michigan teens had known each other for 10 years. Capicchioni, a 17-year-old from the Detroit suburb of Macomb, was a regular high-school student. He liked skating, punk music and hanging out with his friends. Tyrone was just a 15-year-old kid, albeit with some shady connections.
But unknown to Capicchioni, Tyrone was harboring deadly intentions. As part of his initiation into a criminal gang, he had to murder someone, anyone, and it did not matter whom. Tyrone had decided it would be Capicchioni. So he acquired a shotgun and enticed Capicchioni to a secluded place.
Specifically, he asked Capicchioni for a ride to his cousin’s house on the sketchy east side of Detroit. But Capicchioni knew better than to cruise around bad neighborhoods. So he refused; but Tyrone begged him, and a week later Capicchioni gave in and agreed to do his “friend” the favor.
On June 6, 2007, Capicchioni drove Tyrone out to the east side of the “D.” His instincts told him something was wrong, but he carried on. Tyrone directed him to the back of a house, a spot near a fence and some grass. He parked and they got out. Moments later, Tyrone had a shotgun in his hands. But Capicchioni was looking the other way, so he only heard the blast.
“My ears are ringing, I’m like, man, that was close,” said Capicchioni as he described his experience to the skateboarding blog The Berrics in 2011. “And as I kind of just glanced down… my arm is just hanging off, just hanging off like a zombie, I’m just looking at it, I’m like, yeah, this is me, that’s not real… and it’s just hanging off…”
Capicchioni looked up to see Tyrone standing ten feet away with a shotgun. “Did you shoot me?” he asked. Tyrone fired a second time, tearing a hole in his chest the size of “soup bowl.” Capicchioni was instantly blinded, and with his heart and lungs peppered with shot, he fell to the ground.
Tyrone then stood over him and pressed the barrel to his head. However, Capicchioni managed to knock it aside so that the next shot “didn’t blow my head off like the watermelon, just to pieces,” he told The Berrics. “After that I got a little sight, and I was like… I don’t know what’s going on with my head, but I know I’m alive.”
Capicchioni and Tyrone looked at each other for a moment, then Tyrone smashed out Capicchioni’s teeth with the butt of his gun. Having done that, he searched his pockets, took his car keys, fired up his Jeep Commander and cruised away, leaving him for dead. Capicchioni realized he had two options: lie there and die or try to stand up.
But as hard as he tried, Capicchioni couldn’t get off the ground. And then something incredible happened. He experienced the sensation of arms lifting him up and shoving him forward. But when he tried to grasp hold of the person helping him, there was nobody there. Capicchioni managed to stagger forward for eight feet or so before collapsing.
The pain was excruciating, but he found that if he closed his eyes and let go, the pain disappeared. He slipped in and out of consciousness. In his head, he heard his own voice telling him to wake up. Amazingly, the next thing he knew, someone really was telling him to wake up. Having seen Capicchioni collapse in the street, a passing probation officer had rushed to his aid.
The paramedics arrived and removed Capicchioni on a stretcher. At that point, it felt to him as though he was having an out-of-body experience. “[It was] like I was outside of the ambulance on my skateboard filming it,” he told The Berrics. “Rolling telephoto filming of the ambulance, and the door is open, everyone is panicking, and I see my legs coming out, and… it gets to my head [and I] blacked out.”
Capicchioni arrived at the hospital dead. “I was pronounced dead on arrival right there,” he told The Berrics. “John Doe had nothing on me.” However, one doctor was not about to give up. After conducting surgery on his heart, he placed Capicchioni on a life support machine, uncertain if he would live or die. In fact, Capicchioni stabilized, so 24 hours later, the doctor repaired his head and arm.
Three days later, Capicchioni woke up in hospital. After being detached from the ventilator, he proceeded to cough up a bowl of tar and shotgun pellets. But he could breathe again. However, to begin with, he did not know his name, the year or who the current president of the United States was. The only thing he could recall was his father’s phone number.
In fact, his family had no idea where he was. “My father was outside like spraying out the garage and he got the phone call from the hospital saying that, I think we’ve got your son, he’s been shot, but he is alive,” Capicchioni told The Berrics. His parents immediately rushed to his side, and after four days in hospital, he had recovered enough to return home.
Meanwhile, 24 hours later, the FBI visited Capicchioni to question him about Tyrone. Apparently, the police had received a tip-off from one of Tyrone’s friends. He said that Tyrone had phoned him to say he had shot Capicchioni. In response, the authorities dispatched a SWAT team to his house, and they now had Tyrone in custody. All that remained was for Capicchioni to testify.
“I went in there man in a wheelchair, heads still stapled, no teeth, 105 pounds because all the blood I lost, arm [in a] cast,” he told The Berrics as described his first day in court. “In front of 40 of his family… And he couldn’t look me in the eye, he had his head down the whole time… I had to tell my story like this to everyone.”
The second time Capicchioni was in court, Tyrone was sentenced. By then, he had healed and could walk again. Meanwhile, Tyrone presented himself in a purple suit, sunglasses and top hat. His family, who thought Capicchioni was a coward, cheered him on. According to Capicchioni, the judge “slammed the gavel at him and said, ‘You have fun in prison for 35 years.’”
Meanwhile, Capicchioni’s recovery was slow and difficult. For a period, his parents had to care for him. “Like how you do an infant,” he told The Berrics. “Washing, changing, feeding… I’m 17 years old like I got my mother bathing me.” But with time, work and the support of his friends and family, he eventually got back on his feet.
“One day I woke up and I just I felt different,” he told The Berrics. “I’m very blessed… I look at it now after… maturing and growing up… it just gave me like a whole new leg up… it makes me happy to be alive… [I’m] so grateful for everything.” Indeed, some might say that Capicchioni’s survival was nothing short of a miracle.