12-year-old boy shot in leg was innocent bystander, ran to Harlem deli for help

EAST HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- A 12-year-old boy is recovering in serious condition after being shot in the leg in Manhattan late Sunday.

Police say the boy, identified as Jaffari Hopwah, was an innocent bystander when he was shot at East 115th and Third Avenue in East Harlem just before 9 p.m.

His parents tell Eyewitness News that he was with friends at McDonald's when they saw a group of kids running, and then, gunshots rang out.

"I was shocked," mom Tonyekiea Whitehead said. "I was really shocked. The only thing I could do was run out the door with my flip-flops on...That was my baby."

The victim first attempted to run home, but when he couldn't make it, he ran into a bodega pleading for help.

"It was the wrong place at the wrong time," Whitehead said. "He was eating, and then he left. Next thing you know, he sees people and shots were fired and my baby ran."

The bodega workers and two police officers fashioned a tourniquet for the boy's leg.

"They grabbed the phone and called 911, and one of the other guys, he went outside and he was looking for policemen," bodega owner Jorge Melo said. "He found two police somewhere. They came together, and the police helped the little kid. She said thanks for the help, and that she's sorry he came to the store running because he didn't know what to do."

He was rushed to New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he underwent surgery overnight.

Doctors say the bullet just missed the major artery in his leg, and he is expected to survive. It is unclear right now if he will be home in time for Christmas.

"When it is your time to go, it's your time to go," dad John Hopwah said. "God blessed me with my child. He let him live."

His mother stopped by the bodega to thank the workers for helping her son.

"I said to her, 'Thank you,'" she said. "'Thank you for calling the ambulance, the police. Thank you for saving my baby.'"

The circumstances surrounding the shooting are unknown, and police are still searching for a suspect.

Hopwah's parents say they're struggling to figure out how to let her son be a kid, but also keep him safe in their neighborhood. But for now, they say they're the most thankful parents in New York City this holiday.

"This is my Christmas present," Whitehead said. "My son is alive. My son is alive."

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