Driver paralyzed after dispute over handicapped parking spot

Posted at 4:27 PM, Mar 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-07 16:27:11-05

ST. CHARLES, Mo. (AP) — An Amazon driver who illegally parked in a handicapped-accessible parking space is paralyzed from the waist down after a suburban St. Louis man allegedly confronted him about it and shot him in the back.

Jaylen Walker, a 21-year-old who also worked as a personal trainer, said from his bed in the intensive care unit at Saint Louis University Hospital that his plans for the future had been to play with his 1-year-old son “just like any other father would,” go back to school and play basketball, KSDK-TV reported.

“I just thank God I’m still breathing, and I still have opportunities,” he said in a low voice with a brace around his chest and neck. “Just not the ones that I wanted.”

Larry Thomlison, 65, of St. Charles, who isn’t disabled himself but had a placard allowing him to park in handicapped-accessible spots because of a relative, was charged Wednesday with assault and armed criminal action in Tuesday’s shooting outside a Target store in St. Charles. He is jailed on $100,000 bond. No attorney is listed for him in online court records, and a phone message left at his home wasn’t immediately returned.

Walker said that he had just finished his shift when he pulled into a handicap parking spot while stopping to help a fellow driver.

Thomlison pulled out a cellphone to photograph the illegally parked delivery van, and posted the image to social media, according to charges. Then Thomlison confronted Walker about the parking spot and put his phone “in the face of” the Amazon driver in an attempt to photograph him, according to the charges. Walker said he told Thomlison that he was going to move but that “he kept harassing me.” Charges say that when Walker pushed the phone away, Thomlison punched the driver. During the struggle, they ended up on the ground and Thomlison pulled out a gun, police say.

Prosecutors said surveillance video shows Walker trying to run away when he was shot in the back.

“When he pulled the gun out, my eyes were just amazed,” Walker said from the hospital. “I tried to run in between two cars. He had a nice aim and hit me right in the spine.”

St. Charles County Prosecutor Tim Lohmar said during a news conference that Thomlison should have known better and “showed clear reckless disregard for life.” He said Thomlison had been through the St. Charles Police Citizen Academy twice and had a concealed carry permit. Thomlison also was a member of the Community Emergency Response Team, a group of area volunteers who receive training from professionals in basic response skills such as performing CPR or treating various injuries.

Walker said he forgives the shooter: “I just have to move on. Justice will be served. I don’t want to die with that on my heart.”