"Why?" asked Daren Dieter, who is paralyzed from the neck down and moves about in an electric wheelchair he controls with his mouth.
During an emotional confrontation in court yesterday, Dieter, 26, a son of city consumer-affairs director Lance Haver, asked a 22-year-old man why he had shot him last year outside a West Oak Lane restaurant.
Moments earlier, Tyree Bohannon had said he was sorry. "I would like to apologize to Mr. Dieter," he said in court. "I know there's nothing I can say or do to change his situation. No matter how much nobody believe me, I pray for him every night."
Bohannon pleaded guilty yesterday to attempted murder and to carrying a firearm without a license in the shooting of Dieter on Sept. 22, 2007, outside Shrimpy's restaurant, on Cheltenham Avenue near 19th Street. He was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in state prison as part of a plea agreement.
Bohannon said he had changed and had "committed my life to God."
It was after Bohannon finished speaking that Dieter asked him to explain why he had shot him.
Common Pleas Judge Gwendolyn Bright told Bohannon she also wanted to know why.
"Me and Mr. Dieter both know why," Bohannon responded. "It was over money, basically. . . . money that should have been owed."
"How much?" the judge asked.
"Seventy-five thousand dollars," Bohannon said. To that, Dieter seemed perplexed and told the judge: "This is news to me. I don't know anything about this."
Dieter then tried to get more answers from Bohannon, but the judge said that the tragic shooting was "one of those things we may never understand."
After the hearing, Dieter told reporters that he had no idea what the defendant was talking about regarding a debt.
He said that he had had an argument with a man who was a friend of Bohannon's about 10 days before the shooting.
Dieter said he had lent his 1995 Nissan Maxima to the man, who lived a few blocks from him, because the man said that he wanted to drive it to a dance party.
The man didn't return the car until about 36 to 40 hours later, and when he did, he came with three other people - including a man Dieter believed to be Bohannon, Dieter said.
Assistant District Attorney Peter Erdely said afterward that Dieter and the man to whom he lent the car had had a fistfight that day.
In court, Erdely, in reading a summary of facts in the case, said that shortly before midnight on the day of the shooting, Dieter returned to his car after getting takeout food at Shrimpy's. Bohannon rushed to the car, made some remarks, then pointed his gun at Dieter, firing several times.
The bullets severed Dieter's spinal column. A female friend of Dieter's, Elina Henri, then 23, also in the car, was wounded in the arm by a bullet that first tore through Dieter's body.
Bohannon, of Fairhill Street near 65th Avenue, East Oak Lane, also pleaded guilty yesterday to a charge of aggravated assault in Henri's injury.
In court, Dieter gave an eloquent 20-minute statement.
In a level voice, he spoke of the life he had envisioned - "those rites of passage we all hope for."
"I wanted to be independent," said Dieter. "I wanted to have a good job," financial security, a relationship.
"The thought that I would have a child and not be able to hold him, or her, or to have a wife and not be able to hold her . . . is a tremendous loss," he told the court.
He recalled feelings of intense anxiety and fear while he was hospitalized. The only reason to live, he said, "was for my family."
"I didn't want to live for myself, because the pain was too much."
To observers in the courtroom, he said: "Please appreciate the good things you have."
He addressed Bohannon: "I can't understand why you would do something of this nature." The "sad thing about justice," he said, is that while Bohannon could be out on the street in 15 years, he [Dieter] "will still be trapped and will be incarcerated in my body."
Dieter is a biological son of the sister of Haver's wife, Lisa. The Havers adopted him when he was 9.
During yesterday's hearing, Lance Haver said that he hoped that the person who had given Bohannon the illegal gun would face justice.
Lisa Haver said in court that her son "did not deserve to have this happen to him." She also extended her sympathy to the defendant's family.
Her son, she said afterward, graduated from Central High, where he ran track, and then received a bachelor's degree in visual arts from the State University of New York at New Paltz.
Prosecutor Erdely said after the hearing that the gun used in the shooting has never been recovered. Henri did not come to court because she "did not wish to relive the incident," he said.