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8-year-old boy shot in drive-by opens his eyes, waves at camera

After nine surgeries to fix six organs, Elijah Belmares is awake, showing his personality

SAN ANTONIO – Eight-year-old Elijah Belmares was gunned down during a vicious drive-by shooting two weeks ago.

Nine surgeries later, Elijah is showing his strength. He’s finally awake and shocking his whole team of doctors.

His grandmother and guardian, Maria Garza, shared a new video with KSAT that shows her little “Eli” in his hospital bed with eyes open and looking straight at the camera.

"Say hi to everybody!" she said in the video, as Eli lifts his hand and waves.

The tiny movements mark massive improvement for Eli.

“I asked him if he knew why he was here, and he said that he had gotten shot. I asked where, and he said in the back, that it burned and he ran away. Then he woke up here,” Garza said at University Hospital.

On Feb. 25, a silver car pulled up to a home in the 4300 block of Wild Oak Drive on the East Side, where police said shooters opened fire while Eli and his stepdad were unloading groceries from the car in the driveway.

"Straight through the heart, the right ventricle, right through the diaphragm, right through the stomach, the kidney, the liver and the pancreas. Six major organs, and the others were lacerated," Garza said, describing Eli's traumatic injuries.

‘He got shot through the heart and is still fighting,’ says grandmother of young drive-by victim

After nine surgeries, Eli still has a lung filled with fluid and can’t quite breathe on his own. But Garza can clearly see the little boy she’d be lost without.

“I can see his personality. He’s flirting with the nurses and you know, that’s just Eli. He’s something else,” she laughed. “Who gets shot through the heart and can be here and say, ‘I’m hungry! And I don’t want to go to school!’ Who does that? Eli. He’s here for a reason. He’s here for something. Maybe it’s to stop all this violence.”

Neighbors at the scene of the shooting told KSAT they’re sick of hearing gunshots in the area.

SAPD Chief William McManus said investigators have gathered information, know the suspects they are looking for and even believe they know the motivation.

“Just give yourselves up because we are on your trail,” McManus said the day of the shooting.

Garza has the same piece of advice for the shooters.

"If it was your child, I mean, what would you do? What would you want? Whoever decided they wanted to pull the trigger, pulled it regardless if there was a child standing there. He obviously has no heart, no soul, no compassion and it's ugly that this world is coming to that," Garza said.

However, she’s leaving that all up to the investigators working around the clock to find the people responsible. While they do their job, Garza plans to do hers.

"As long as I have the strength, and God keeps giving it to me, I'm here," she said.

Doctors hope Eli will be able to transfer out of the ICU soon. They say he could be hospitalized for two more months as he recovers.

On Monday, a teacher will begin visiting Eli to help him with school work, so he doesn’t get behind in his classes.


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