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Westwood shooting victim Marcellus Whitehead out of coma, breathing on his own

Posted at 11:06 PM, Aug 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-21 10:40:50-04

CINCINNATI — An 8-year-old boy who was shot in the head in East Westwood June 12 is now out of a coma and breathing on his own, according to his mother.

Marcellus Whitehead, who goes by MJ, was walking to a nearby store with his big brother when he was struck. He’s been in the ICU ever since. His mother, Marcella Thompson, said he’s improving slowly, but steadily.

“It’s better than before,” she said. “I’ll tell you that. Every little thing that improves is working toward progress. That’s all that matters to me. From ‘he’s not going to make it through the night’ to where I’m at today, I’m happy with that.”

The incident which resulted in Marcellus’ injury happened in broad daylight outside of a convenience store.

“People don’t think before they act, you know?” Thompson said. “They don’t think about other people, or their families. Any of that. It’s frustrating to see this senseless stuff going on.”

She said MJ was taken off of a ventilator after 60 days. He’s alert and breathing on his own. He’s currently fighting off fluid on the brain, but he’s been able to move his arms and legs.

“He’s definitely a fighter,” Thompson said. “He’s got a lot of fight in him.”

East Westwood Community Council president Rodney Christian gathers kids of all ages to try and reverse a trend.

“Don’t waste opportunities to talk to kids,” he said. “They’re here for basketball and that hoop, but you can also take that and use it as bait. Put it on a hook and reel it in to talk about something else.”

The Third Presbyterian Church operates a rec center with basketball courts every weekday from 3:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. to give area kids something constructive to do with their time.

“We have to fight for MJ right now,” Christian said. “Out here. On making a change.”

Her life changed in an instant – and now Marcella Thompson said she tries to focus on the positive.

“I tell him (MJ) every day how strong he is,” she said. “I think that gets him through it. I think me seeing how strong he is gets me through it. I have a lot of faith and a lot of hope.”

Three days after the shooting, Darius Harris Jr., 19, was charged with four counts of felonious assault for firing the shots that injured Whitehead and three others. He is currently being held in the Hamilton County Jail and is awaiting trial.