Grown up, Nashay Little looks back at '06 shooting
She was 4 years old when she was shot in South Philly by a stray bullet fired by a 13-year-old boy.
IN JUNE 2006, a stray bullet pierced through 4-year-old Nashay Little's upper thigh, almost killing her.
The shooter, in a gunfight with an older teen, had just turned 13 two weeks before.
The shooting made headlines because Nashay and the shooter, Vaughn Wylie, were so young. It prompted calls for an end to youth violence and increased scrutiny over the young gunman.
Eight years later, Nashay, now 12, is a pretty, happy-go-lucky girl. She forgives Wylie and the other shooter, Malcolm Gantz.
"It's a blessing to have her here," Nashay's mother, Roxanne Little, 25, said in a recent interview. "I don't know what I would do if her life had ended. She's a success story."
Nashay said she doesn't remember the shooting, which happened about 7 p.m. June 13, 2006, when she was a little girl, her hair braided with bouncy barrettes. She had been playing outside a house with other kids on Sigel Street near 22nd in South Philly, while her mother, then 17 and a South Philadelphia High senior, was visiting a classmate.
Wylie and Gantz, then 18, had gotten into an argument at 22nd and Sigel streets, authorities said after the shooting. Gantz first started shooting at Wylie, who hid behind a car. As Gantz fled down Sigel toward 21st Street, Wylie fired his .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol at Gantz, missed, and hit Nashay in the left upper thigh.
"She went into shock immediately," Roxanne recalled. "It hit a major artery. She lost a lot of blood."
"I remember me in a hospital," said Nashay, who was treated at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "I remember me with my walker trying to take steps."
Nashay and her mother had lived in South Philly, but have since moved to another neighborhood. For security reasons they don't want to say where.
A little more than a year ago, Roxanne got married. Nashay is now a big sister to a stepsister, 10, brother, 7, and baby sister, 4 months.
Her mother said Nashay has turned the tragedy into a positive.
"It makes her bolder, a lot more outgoing," Roxanne said. "I remember before the situation, Shay was kind of timid and shy. But now she's more outspoken, in a positive way. She likes to lead."
Nashay, now a seventh-grader in a city charter school, "loves, loves, loves school," her mother said.
She also enjoys praise dancing at her church and danced in a hip-hop program at school earlier this year.
If she could talk to Wylie, Nashay said she would ask him: "Did he care about the situation?" and, "When he gets out of jail, will he continue to do bad things or do better things?"
Wylie, because of his age, was charged as a juvenile. He pleaded guilty in Philadelphia Family Court to aggravated assault and weapons violations and spent at least two years in juvenile-placement facilities.
Adult court records show that Wylie, now 21, of Mifflin Street near 22nd in South Philly, was not fully rehabilitated after being released.
At age 16, he was arrested in February 2010 on gun-possession and drug charges. After pleading guilty the next year, he was sentenced to nine to 23 months in jail and five years' probation, and was ordered to stay away from South Philly until he was 19 years old.
But back home on July 11, 2012, Wylie, then 19, again was arrested after cops found drugs and a handgun in his house. In January of this year, he pleaded guilty to gun and drug charges and was sentenced in Common Pleas Court to 5 1/2 to 12 years in prison.
According to the state Department of Corrections, his earliest release date is Jan. 18, 2018, and his maximum release date is July 11, 2024.
Gantz, now 27, is still serving a 17-to-34-year prison sentence stemming from the June 2006 shooting. Since he was an adult at the time, his case was tried in Common Pleas Court. He was found guilty by a jury in 2007 of attempted murder, aggravated assault and possession of an instrument of crime.
According to the state, his minimum release date is August 2023 and his maximum release date is August 2040.
Coincidentally, Wylie and Gantz are now both locked up in the State Correctional Institution in Fayette County, in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Nashay said if she could talk to Gantz now, she would want to ask him: "Did he change already, or did he think about changing?"
Looking into the future, Nashay has big hopes. She wants to go to college - in her sights are New York University and Princeton. She wants to live and work in New York, possibly opening a dance studio or teaching.
"She teaches me a lot of things," her mother said. "The way she thinks, how she's humble and how she forgives, and is not stagnated with certain stuff. I thank God I'm able to witness the woman she's become."