Young shooting victim celebrates graduation 22 years later
WALKER - A man who survived a bullet to the head 22 years ago celebrated with friends and family at his graduation party Friday night.
Walter Stoetzner was about two months old he was shot by his 13-year-old babysitter. The bullet went through his forehead and out through the right side of his head into a nearby wall.
Doctors said the odds were not in his favor, but this week, he was able to celebrate a milestone.
"He is a survivor," said his grandmother and now adopted mother Lilly Carpenter. "I'm very happy with him, I couldn't be happier. That's my baby, I'm very thankful."
Carpenter adopted Stoetzner shortly after the accident and raised him as her own son. The family members involved in the shooting are estranged.
Carpenter said Stoetzner couldn't walk until he was six years old. He's spent most of his years at St. Mary's in Alexandria, an educational environment for people with disabilities.
Stoetzner graduated from Bolton High School along with 103 others.
At his graduation party, Stoetzner proudly showed off his photos and greeted everyone who walked in. Something doctors once feared he might not be able to do.
"They didn't give him any hope whatsoever," said Carpenter. "He went to almost total blindness, almost totally lost his hearing."
Stoetzner enjoys playing the guitar and food.
"I like to cook chili," he said.
Faith has played a big part in this family's life. They say with all the struggles, they fought hard and never gave up hope.
Stoetzner says he's not sure what he'll do next but he's taking things day by day.