Crime survivor has a story to tell -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

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Crime survivor has a story to tell


November 7, 2007

Albany -- Like the placard indicates, Vanessa Newell is a survivor. In 2003, she came face to face with a killer.

"We were in a car and I had rolled the window down. He had knelt down right by the passenger's window, and when I turned and looked, I looked him and the gun right in the face.

A wannabe carjacker, pulled the trigger of a 9 millimeter pistol. "And I saw the flash and I was hit. And the first thing I said was, 'Why did he shoot me?'"

But the horror didn't end there. "He stood up and I thought he was going to keep shooting me, but he reached over and he shot my friend three times in the chest."

Her friend, 42-year-old Reggie Gay, was dead. Vanessa Newell was critically wounded, the bullet pierced her left eye and exited near her temple.

"It missed my brain by an eighth of an inch." But she was determined to live. "And I sat there and I said, 'God I'm not afraid to die, but I'm not dying in the street like this.'"

Four years and seven surgeries later, when she saw the kick off of WALB's Taking Back Our Neighborhoods, she knew she had to do something. "Something just got me so stirred up."

Stirred up to the point that she left her Albany apartment where she spends most of her time, and showed up at a Gang and Youth Violence Prevention Seminar.

She knows how important it is to keep kids out of gangs. She was shot by a 17-year-old. "To go to jail at 17 and be there for the next 43 years it's rough, you know."

So she leaves the safety of her apartment to put a face on the crime problem. She hopes this seminar will help spread her message for teens.

"You really got to think about your choices in life. In that split second, you know, picking up a gun and shooting someone and taking what you want or doing what you want and run, but then you don't see the aftermath of the picture, of what you've done to somebody."

But somebody who defied death, and hopes to help other crime victims as she draws strength from a greeting card. "It says God created you and He had a mission for you. And I say well, He must have because I'm still here."

Here to put a face on the victims of crime; to help take back our neighborhoods.