Paralyzed shooting victim tells his harrowing tale in court

Kevin Neary arrives at court Wednesday.
Kevin Neary arrives at court Wednesday. (APRIL SAUL / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: September 14, 2012

KEVIN NEARY told the harrowing story Wednesday of his life since being shot in the neck Nov. 15 to a Philadelphia courtroom filled beyond capacity with family and friends.

His supporters knew the basics: Neary, 29, became a quadriplegic last November after he was shot while resisting a robbery attempt near his apartment on Bodine Street in Northern Liberties.

But hearing the details of how Neary lives in a body broken by a bullet brought many to tears. From his motorized wheelchair fitted with a noisy ventilator to help him breathe, Neary explained - sometimes with humor - how others now bathe, wipe, feed, dress, clothe and drive him.

"It's been quite a change for me. I used to like to put on a pair of jeans or a suit - fashionable attire," he said, drawing laughs amid the tears.

Not crying, but listening intently and looking half-depressed and half-angry, was Christopher Easton, 21, the Northern Liberties man who shot Neary just after 2:30 a.m. He pleaded guilty Tuesday.

For the crime of attempted murder and related offenses, Easton could have been sentenced to 41 to 82 years in state prison, but he received 30 to 60 years. Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Minehart gave him credit for pleading guilty and for showing remorse.

"I apologize. You probably don't believe me, but I truly apologize for what I did," said Easton, who had no supporters on hand. "Some nights I toss and turn in bed thinking what I did was a dumb, selfish act. . . . There's no excuse for what I done."

Neary has since left the city and moved back home to Upper Chichester, where he is cared for by his father, Joseph, 62, nurses and relatives, including brothers Joseph, 32, and Christopher, 27.

"For lack of a better word, it's been pretty sucky," Neary said, describing how his condition has impacted the family and friends who have rallied around him. "Without them I don't know where I'd be, I don't know what I'd be doing. Because there are times when I thought I couldn't go on. But then when I see their faces, it brightens my spirits."

The University of Pennsylvania grad who once worked as a professional recruiter said he was satisfied with the sentence and had no bad words for Easton. "I appreciate his apology," Neary said outside the Criminal Justice Center.

He now spends his time working on behalf of a trust that bears his name and aids those with spinal-cord injuries.

"I think there's a lot of opportunities to look at positives from this. I want to help people; I want to uplift people," he said. "I want to be somebody who gives opportunity and access to resources."

On Friday at 7 p.m., the Friends of Kevin Neary Trust will throw a 30th birthday bash for Neary with a fundraiser at Citizens Bank Park. For details and tickets, visit KevinNeary.com.


Contact Mensah M. Dean at deanm@phillynews.com or 215-568-8278. Follow him on Twitter @MensahDean.

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