By Jessica Anderson, The Baltimore Sun
6:52 PM EDT, July 15, 2013
A Baltimore County man paralyzed from the waist down in a 2004 shooting at Randallstown High School was awarded $21.4 million Monday in a civil case against the two men convicted in the attack.
Baltimore County Circuit Judge Kathleen Cox ruled in favor of William "Tipper" Thomas, now 26, who was shot twice outside in the school parking lot about a month before he was scheduled to graduate.
The gunmen — Matthew McCullough and Tyrone Brown — did not appear in court Monday and did not have attorneys in the civil case. The defendants were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms of 50 and 100 years, respectively.
Four students were hit on May 7, 2004, after a dispute broke out between two students after a charity basketball game. Thomas fought through the injuries to graduate from Morgan State University with a degree in electrical engineering and land a job at Northrop Grumman.
Thomas' mother, Peggie Henderson, had sued McCullough and Brown, along with the then-principal of Randallstown High, the Baltimore County Board of Education, the county Police Department and two police officers. The suit accused the defendants of negligence for failing to prevent the shootings.
But in 2010, a judge threw out the case against the school system, Police Department and the officers. Thomas' attorney, Howard Needle, said his client plans to appeal the ruling. "His normal life was taken from him in a senseless fashion," Needle said.
In court, Thomas described the numerous costs associated with his disability, including a $30,000 modified vehicle he purchased for himself. He also said he needs regular medical treatment.
"He will continue to need some medical services" for the rest of his life, Dr. Thomas M. Scalea said in a recording played in court. Scalea, physician in chief at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, had treated Thomas after the shooting.
Henderson said her son changed, becoming quieter and more reserved after the shooting. She lives in Georgia, and Thomas was living with his father at the time. She said she flew up dozens of times while he underwent surgeries and other treatment in the year following the shooting.
"He had all kinds of tubes in him," she said, describing the first time she saw him after the shooting.
Thomas said he had been trying to help another student during the shooting when he was wounded. He said he tried to run but felt the lower half of his body go numb.
Thomas said the most difficult challenge in his life since the shooting has been physical, rather than emotional. After Monday's ruling, he said, "I'm still going to work tomorrow."
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