In hospital after shooting, victim shows a resilient love
By Tony Graf email@example.com December 28, 2012 4:42PM
Updated: January 31, 2013 6:41AM
LaTara Russell is spending the holidays in a hospital room, recovering from three bullet wounds after a shooting on Christmas morning.
The 22-year-old Joliet woman does not know when she will be able to leave the hospital after the Tuesday incident involving her boyfriend. She does not know when she will be able to return to work as a school bus driver. She does not know how she will pay her bills without medical insurance.
Police say Cliffton T. Williams, 23, of Joliet shot his girlfriend three times before killing himself. The couple began arguing around 2 a.m. Tuesday inside Williams’ home on Spruce Slip Street, police said. The girlfriend tried to leave and walked to her vehicle, which was parked on the street, but Williams took out a handgun and chased her around the car while shooting at her, police said.
Russell, who was Williams’ girlfriend, spoke with The Herald-News on Friday while recovering at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet. She says she is hurting in mind as well as in body.
“The situation with my boyfriend, whom I was with for seven years — I loved him, and I know he loved me,” Russell said.
Russell is in pain — with wounds in her elbow, thigh and shoulder blade — and does not know when she will be able to leave the hospital.
“I hope I’m out by Monday so I can go to his funeral,” Russell said of Williams. “It’s something that I want — that I need — to be there for.”
Russell has kept in contact with Williams’ family after the shooting, and some of his family members even have visited her in the hospital.
“By no means do we hold a grudge against the family, or even Cliffton,” said Dollicia Bell, Russell’s mother. “Yes, I’m full of emotion because it’s my baby. But God protected her. I believe she’s going to get through this.”
Time of hardship
Russell is in pain after one bullet went through her right elbow, another bullet struck her left thigh and exited the back of her leg, and another bullet struck her right shoulder blade and remains there.
“I don’t have medical insurance. I don’t know how I’m going to pay for this,” Russell said.
In addition to hospital bills, Russell knows she will incur expenses for medication, physical therapy and counseling.
“I’m going to need a counselor, somebody to talk to,” she said.
As a school bus driver, Russell needs her right arm to be able to drive, and she worries about her injury.
She also worries about paying car bills, car insurance, phone bills and other bills.
“It’s devastating,” Bell said of this difficult week. “I’ve just been here on go-mode since it happened.”
Russell commended the staff at Presence Saint Joseph for their care of her during the holidays.
“They’re great. Everybody here is really nice to me,” she said. “Everybody has tons of words of encouragement.”
The mother and daughter also are impressed with the large number of friends and family members visiting the hospital at Christmastime. Russell even got a visit from a teacher from her days at Plainfield Central High School.
Both mother and daughter see this experience as a reminder, to not take life for granted.
“I just hope this is an eye-opening experience for everyone,” Bell said.
“You can’t think nothing is ever going to happen to you — it happens,” Russell said.
Russell is keeping up her relationship with Williams’ family.
“I love them like they are my family,” she said. “They treat me like their own.”
“I love everybody. I’m not bitter toward anyone. Before I was a bus driver, I was a caregiver,” Russell said.
That caring nature in general has endured throughout Russell’s life, Bell said.
“Since she was 2 or 3 years old, she’s been a caregiver — always giving, always taking care of people,” she said.