Tenacious Girl, 10, Is 'Golden'
D.C. Police Honor Young DWI Victim
By Nicole Fuller
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 17, 2004; Page DZ03
Even with a steel rod in her right leg, Erica Shaheed still manages to play a tough game of dodge ball in her gym class.
She has had a miraculous recovery, her family said, considering that nearly two years ago she was clinging to life in a D.C. hospital after being hit by a drunk driver.
Two city police officers agreed, and so on Monday evening Erica, 10, was awarded the fourth annual Golden Child Award, created to recognize children who persevered against seemingly insurmountable odds.
"It's great," Erica said, as she watched Dunbar High School battle Oxon Hill High School at the culmination of a three-day basketball tournament in her honor at Trinity College.
Erica, a fourth-grader at Truesdale Elementary School, was dragged about 400 yards after being hit in September 2002 by a drunk driver. The driver was speeding through a crosswalk at Illinois Avenue and Ingraham Street NW as Erica walked with an older cousin to her great-grandmother's house nearby.
The driver, Melvin Richardson, has since been sentenced to a 16-year prison term.
While her cousin, Janee Murphy, who was 13 at the time, recovered relatively quickly after suffering a broken rib and an injury to her spleen, Erica still bears the scars of the accident.
Erica suffered brain trauma, a fractured leg and damage to her pancreas. But perhaps most traumatic was the loss of her right ear, said her father, Eric Malcom, 34.
"I tell her, 'Don't let no one get you down. You're a very pretty young lady.' "
But all that was a side note Monday as Erica sat with her father, grandmother, great-grandmother and other family members nodding to the beat of the drums and the blare of the trumpets played by a high school band -- just for Erica.
"This is what it's about, kids . . . showing love to Erica Shaheed," co-announcer Stacey Robinson bellowed into a microphone. "It's good to see everybody out here. That's what we need to be doing: supporting our kids."
SWAT team officers Bill Wright and Daryl Isom, who created the award, said Erica was chosen unanimously.
"The fact that she went through such a difficult time in critical condition for eight months -- she was fighting for her life," Wright said. "She has a powerful will for such a young girl."
Last year, Iran Brown, the then 13-year-old Bowie student shot outside his middle school during the sniper attacks in 2002, was given the award.
Donations from private companies and proceeds from the tournament -- expected to top $4,000 -- will be awarded to Erica's family to help pay for her medical costs.
Erica is set to undergo the first in a series of reconstructive surgeries on her ear in July. Malcom, who's worked in the past washing windows, said that he's unemployed now and that the money will be a big help.
"I was very pleased that someone was honoring her because she's been through a lot in her life," Malcom said.
"I'm so happy that this is happening for her."
As the ball players took a break, the band played on, and co-announcer and event organizer "Big Bob" Bobby Kinzer led the crowd in a chant.
"We got Erica Shaheed in the house! Everybody say hey!"
A beaming Erica clapped along with the others, and belted out an enthusiastic, "Hey!"
© 2004 The Washington Post Company