BRAHEEM THOMAS, 12, has a message for the lowlife whose bullets struck him Friday:

Put the guns away.

"Don't shoot at all," Braheem said last night on the steps of his family's two-story Crescentville rowhouse. "People are out there with their kids. . . . You're taking a life, and that's not cool."

Police say the punk who pulled the trigger that night on Van Kirk Street near Rising Sun Avenue was targeting a 21-year-old man who was standing nearby.

He got his man, hitting him in the chest, but a stray bullet struck Braheem in the left thigh as the youth was walking home from Burger King with his mom, an aunt and cousins.

Braheem, who said he was close enough to the gunman to see the muzzle flash from his pistol, was taken to St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in stable condition, police said.

There, doctors told him and his mother that luck had been on his side: His injury was "the deepest flesh wound they had seen," Braheem said. The bullet entered his thigh before flying out the back of his leg.

"God was watching out for him," said his mother, Chrystal Thomas. She was feet from her son when he was struck and never left his side that night. Her son bravely endured his ordeal, she said, despite the severity of his wound.

Braheem was energetic and talkative yesterday. Without the crutches under his arms, a passer-by would never know that a bullet had flown through his leg three days earlier.

He admitted that he was in pain - "It burns pretty bad," he said - but his main concern was for his young cousin, who had been standing next to him when he was shot.

"There were a whole bunch of kids standing right there," he said. "Somebody could've gotten seriously hurt."

He summed up his experience as "a little traumatic," but was confident he'd make a full recovery. In four days, he'll be rid of his crutches, something he's looking forward to as much as his birthday June 26, and the end of his time in seventh grade.

Chrystal Thomas also is looking forward to putting the incident behind her.

And she has her own message for the gunman.

"I hope they have a conscience," she said. "I hope they know what they did."

Police were still searching last night for the shooter. The other victim, whose name was not available, remained in critical but stable condition last night at Albert Einstein Medical Center.

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