No 8-year-old should live in fear for his life, with nightmares that keep him awake all night. But that is a daily occurrence for Donald Maiden Jr., known as D.J., who was playing tag outside his Dallas apartment complex when he was shot in the face by a neighbor last September.
There was seemingly no reason for the attack by 46-year-old Brian Cloninger, a white man, who told police “he wanted to” when asked why he fired on the black child.
The little boy, who spent weeks in the hospital hooked up to machines and breathing tubes, is now, thankfully, physically improved. After the shooting, he had a metal plate and wire mesh to hold his damaged jaw together.
“We’re doing much better,” his mother, Monique Locklin, told The Root. “A lot better. He’s doing well.”
D.J. still has a tracheotomy tube in his neck to help him breathe, and is due for a reconstructive surgery on March 10, but he is functioning as normally as anyone could expect an 8-year-old who was shot for seemingly no reason to function.
“He goes to school, he still plays outside,” Locklin said. “Light playing, but he still does everything pretty normally like he would before.”
His March surgery is also expected to be his last for a while, although more operations are in his future as he grows.
“As his face enhances he’ll have to keep on getting it fixed,” his mother said.
Physical well-being aside, however, the toll that the shooting has had on D.J.’s mental health has been severe, to say the least.
“He’s afraid that [Cloninger] is going to get out of jail [and come for him] … or that he’ll hurt somebody else,” Locklin said, saying that D.J. goes to therapy once a week. “He has nightmares almost every night. He won’t sleep alone, and he wakes up almost every night crying because he has nightmares.”
Even though he remembers the terrible incident, D.J. doesn’t really like to relive it much, his mother says. His family and siblings remain supportive, only bringing it up when he wants to talk about it.
“You know kids. Once something happens they push it to the back and keep moving,” Locklin said.
His mother is, however, prepared to put the third-grader on the stand to testify against his shooter if need be, to ensure that Cloninger remains behind bars.
“I want him in jail, that’s where he needs to be,” said Locklin, who is currently in contact with the district attorney’s office.
“We don’t know when the trial is going to be, but he’s still in custody, and they said maybe sometime around the summer they should probably be able to proceed to the trial.
“I just want to see him get punished to the maximum, and I just want justice for what he did, because it really was unnecessary and just cruel. I don’t want him to be able to be free so he could do that to someone else,” she added.