Blind victim forgives childhood friend for accidental shooting

Mike Lee was left blind after an accidental shooting in 1989. (Source: NBC12)
Mike Lee was left blind after an accidental shooting in 1989. (Source: NBC12)
Published: Feb. 22, 2018 at 4:36 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 22, 2018 at 5:44 AM EST
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Mike Lee lost his vision. Todd Bell lost his childhood. Now they're both gaining the power - to...
Mike Lee lost his vision. Todd Bell lost his childhood. Now they're both gaining the power - to forgive.

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A Richmond man who was blinded in a shooting has made amends with the childhood friend who accidentally shot him.

Mike Lee, 41, has never harbored hatred towards Todd Bell, but until now the two men have never expressed how the accident changed their lives.

It's been nearly three decades since the two men were best friends in middle school. That quickly changed after one tragic moment nearly killed one of them.

Lee lost his vision. Bell lost his childhood. But now they're both gaining the power to forgive.

It was 1989 when the boys, both 12, were headed to play basketball in a quiet subdivision of north Hampton.

They stopped at Bell's house, where an unexpected moment of horseplay changed their lives.

"I can remember him rustling in the night stand and he pulls out a gun. I loved him, right? This was my friend. Just like any friend who hangs out," Lee said. "And he extended his arm, and me being a child and not understanding the moment, I said 'shoot me.' He pulled the trigger, didn't know there was still a bullet left in the chamber."

Lee lost his vision out of one eye. An unrelated medical condition 12 years later caused him to lose sight in the other.

Now, 29 years later, a post on social media opened an unhealed wound. Lee posted on Facebook, "There comes a time when we have to revisit that place of pain to find true peace."

One of the people who commented was Bell.

"Since I was 12 I had to live with the guilt of accidentally shooting my best changed a potential bond that was brotherly into awkward interaction," Bell replied on the post.

Bell now lives in Colorado and spoke via Skype.

"No one ever bothered to see the effects of the incident from my instance or side," Bell said. "It impacted my making new friends making girlfriends. I didn't do a lot of socializing in high school."

Bell said even though he didn't suffer any physical harm, was still traumatized.

"Basically, what he was telling me was he lost his childhood," Lee said. "I had to forgive myself for not reaching out to him more as a young man and embracing him and making sure he was OK. Hopefully he can forgive me. I've already forgiven him for that day, and hopefully he can forgive me because maybe I didn't do enough."

Bell said their connection today speaks to Lee's character. He's not one to make empty gestures.

"With Mike, it's nothing to forgive," Bell said. "We were children. Children don't take the time to think about point of views and how it impacts people and all of that. I know what kind of person Mike Lee is. He's a sincere person."

Lee's life was forever changed, but being blinded instilled in him a sense of purpose and empowerment to live each day better than the last. Lee said he feels because he survived the shooting, he's able to get through anything.

"It gave me power. Yes, I lost something but I gained so much more," Lee said. "It let me know how precious life was. I almost lost my life that day. I have moments where I'm frustrated. I have moments where I can't take it anymore and I reflect upon my childhood and I'm like 'man, I got this.' Because I'm alive. I'm here."

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