INDIANAPOLIS — Columbus Caudle was an 18-year-old headed to college on a basketball scholarship just a month ago. Today, he's bound to a wheelchair after a bullet went through his back and paralyzed him from the waist down.
"I'm the person that doesn't need to be helped around. I can do everything by myself basically," Caudle said. "But now, I need help a lot."
He's still getting used to things.
"This is my life from now on," Caudle said. "Until I get back on my feet, this is my life."
Caudle had moved away from Indiana to Florida when he was 16, then Georgia this past September when his mother passed away.
"I got a tattoo of my mom, right here. I look at that every day," he said. "That just pushes me to keep going."
That loss led Caudle to chase his passion.
"Only thing on my mind was, 'Do everything for her.' So that was my motive," Caudle said. "And then my uncle was like, 'Come live with me. Let's make this happen, like make your dream come true.'"
His uncle, basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal, took Caudle in his senior year of high school and helped him reach one of his dreams. Caudle earned a full-ride scholarship to Alabama State University to play basketball.
"He just graduated three, four weeks ago, walked over the stage, which was an extremely emotional moment with our mom not being there," said Caudle's older sister Mykayla Granson. "We've just all been on an all-time high because he made it."
But on a quick visit to his hometown of Indianapolis for a friend's graduation, his life changed.
"I was planning on going back to Georgia, working a little bit, and then going to college," Caudle said. Then, at the friend's graduation party, things took a turn. "Shots just get fired out of nowhere. I'm running and I heard the last shot just go through the garage, and just hit me in the back. I took two steps, and it was just done."
Caudle, the only person who was shot at the party, was rushed to the hospital.
"I'm feeling my legs like, 'I can't feel my legs no more,'" he said. "They’re like, 'You're going to basically be paralyzed.'"
It's a diagnosis he's determined not to live with forever.
"They told me I had 5% (chance to walk again)," Caudle said. "We're going to fight for that 5%."
Basketball or not, Caudle will head to school.
"(Alabama State's) leaving my full ride on the table, so I really appreciate them for that," he said. "It's just a blessing. It's a blessing, really."
Caudle's family started a fundraiser for his recovery. They're hoping to send him to a rehab center in Florida or Georgia where he can continue his journey to walk again. To donate, click here.