Alexandria Police Case No. 05151318 is still open.
On the night he played his first NBA minutes, Andray Blatche cannot talk in detail about the attempted carjacking, because the man who shot Blatche and another assailant are presumed to be still at large.
"The only time I really think about it is when I'm getting in and out of a car," he said. "I always watch my surroundings a lot closer."
The tall, lanky teenager with the babykins smile and sleepy eyes calmly shows you where the bullet passed through his right forearm, out the inside of his wrist, through his left pectoral and finally out the left side of his rib cage. Four puncture wounds, including one that missed his aorta by an inch. The bullet never lodged within his body.
"They found it in the car," Blatche said. "I was real lucky and real blessed. I feel like God got me for a reason and a purpose, that there's something I haven't finished yet."
Crazy, no, a 19-year-old thinking he is closer to the end than the beginning? A little more than a month after he suffered a gunshot wound and lay in a hospital bed for three days, Blatche checked into his first NBA game last night. With eight minutes left in a rout of Seattle, the 49th pick in the draft got off the bench to a nice applause, knocked down his first shot, a face-up, 20-foot jumper over Mikki Moore, and finished with four points and two pretty assists.
"It's a real good feeling, unbelievable," he said afterward. When a reporter asked to see his wound, his teammate Brendan Haywood yelled "Fifty," and chuckled.
"They call me '50 Cent,' " Blatche said, smiling. The locker room humor alludes to the rapper Curtis Jackson, also a victim of gun violence. "At least we can laugh about it a little, you know?"
Blatche's tale is that of the last teen who skipped college to chase the dream, a kid who almost wound up as a tragic parable for the NBA's final group of high schoolers allowed to declare themselves eligible for the draft that young. It's about a talented young ballplayer who grew up wanting to be Kevin Garnett and almost wound up as Alexandria's third homicide of the year.
It began as most weekend nights in September do for a full-grown teenager with a nice car, lots of disposable income and a friend with the same. Music. Girls. And the intoxicating feeling of a good Saturday night creeping into the wee hours of a Sunday morning.
Blatche was out with Peter John Ramos, his Wizards' teammate who is 20 occasionally going on 12, at H20, a club in Southwest Washington. (Maybe because Ramos is 7 feet 3 and Blatche is 6-11, no bouncer thought to card the two to check if they were under 21.) Either way, "there was some bumping in the club, but nothing I can really remember," Blatche said. "I don't have no enemies, no one who would want to do anything to me that I know of."
H2O is the same club the rapper Cam'ron was said to be frequenting outside before he was shot at a stoplight in the District. "Same thing happened to Cam'ron, same club," Blatche said. "I don't know if there is a connection, but I'm assuming there are people out there, hanging around, trying to carjack me and other athletes and entertainers."
Blatche remembers staying at the club until about 2:30 a.m. He was planning on spending time with a young woman he had met, a woman whom he was following home. Afterward he planned to pick up his best friend and roommate, Jamar Simpson, at 5 a.m. to take him to a 6 a.m. basketball practice at Columbia Union College. It was less than a week before training camp was to begin, and Blatche knew he was out too late. But he didn't think it would almost cost him his life.
He was in his car with two friends when they noticed a van following them. When they pulled over, two men wearing masks stepped out of the van. One man reportedly ordered Blatche out of the car and then shot him before Blatche could get out. He was driven to his home, the police were called and the wailing siren of an ambulance would soon pull up in his driveway. Within the hour, Blatche was transported via helicopter to Inova Fairfax Hospital.
"I heard the gunshot and I knew I was hit in the wrist," Blatche said. "I wrapped it up, not even knowing I had been hit in the chest, too." He was in the hospital for three days. His mother, Angela Oliver, came to see him.
"It's the phone call a mother never wants to receive," she said last night at halftime of the Wizards' game. "It was devastating to see my baby there. He was so upbeat and strong. Just to see him like that."
Andray had escaped the most dilapidated and depressing of neighborhoods of Syracuse, N.Y., the same area a man was shot in the chest and killed last May, the night of the graduation party Andray's uncle threw for him. Angela's baby was in the NBA now, traveling on charters, staying at Ritz-Carltons and Four Seasons, living in a nice, comfortable suburb of the District. He was supposed to be safe.
"I was sitting up in the bed, trying to comfort her," Blatche said. "She was crying, but she was happy I was alive."
Angela Oliver, who moved to South Carolina in July, comes to see Andray every two weeks. Last night, she fixed him and Jamar Simpson chicken and dumplings. "I'm actually worried when my Mom is here. I feel more safe when she's home in South Carolina, where things are quieter."
Doctors did not expect Blatche to play until Christmas. "And that was the earliest" prognosis, he said. But the kid ran steps, lifted weights and rehabilitated his shooting hand through physical therapy. Named the MVP of Michael Jordan's high school all-star game at Madison Square Garden last May, the Garnett comparisons have been numerous. Garnett, himself a teenager a decade ago, is Blatche's favorite player, which tells you something about the kid's own youth.
No suspects or motives have surfaced in the investigation, which Alexandria police are treating as an attempted robbery. A spokeswoman said they consider Blatche "the victim of a legitimate tragedy."
There was another shooting in Alexandria the night before Blatche was shot. Ronnie Lamont Lee, an 18-year-old from the District, also was in a car with two friends when a suspect tried to rob them of money. Lee was shot and killed, becoming the second homicide of the year along the affluent Northern Virginia waterfront.
"I didn't know that," Blatche said, shaking his head. "I am really blessed. I blame myself in some ways, you know, staying out that late. But I don't nag at myself. It could have happened to anybody."
His self-imposed curfew is midnight now, 6 hours 13 minutes before the time of shooting that night. Angela calls her son "every morning when I wake up and every night before I go to bed, just to know he's there."
Just to know her baby is safe.