Child shot at harbor says he would punch gunman in the face

Four-year-old Kavin Benson was shot by a stray bullet after the Fourth of July fireworks at the Inner Harbor.
Four-year-old Kavin Benson was shot by a stray bullet after the Fourth of July fireworks at the Inner Harbor. (Courtesy WJZ)

A stick-on bandage is the only thing covering Kavin Benson's dime-size bullet wound.

It hasn't stopped the rambunctious 4-year-old, who was shot moments after the July 4 fireworks ended at the Inner Harbor, from dancing, jumping and climbing all over his family's Brooklyn apartment. And it hasn't stopped the child, sporting a red T-shirt and Dr. Seuss shoes, from seeking revenge.

When he finds the person who shot him, Kavin said, he's going to "punch him in the face."

The small-caliber slug, possibly from a celebratory shot fired into the air, entered the top of his right thigh near his hip. It seared its way down inside the length of his leg and lodged behind his femur, where doctors were forced to leave it.

"I could dance all night," Kavin said Wednesday afternoon as he tried to spin on his head like a top, a little boy's version of break dancing. He proudly displayed his bandage, pulling up his plaid shorts. Being hit by the bullet, he said, hurt like "getting a shot in the arm." Kavin hates getting shots, said his mother, Caitlin Moorhead.

But his pain now is minimal, family members said. When he starts school, Kavin said, he's "going to tell all of the pretty girls" about his injury.

Kavin was only one victim of the violence that marred the holiday. A man visiting town for the night from Alabama was stabbed to death with a broken bottle during a fight. No one has been arrested or charged in either incident, said police spokesman Detective Kevin Brown.

The shooting and the stabbing occurred at opposite ends of the harbor about 10 p.m., as thousands of people were leaving the waterfront at the end of the fireworks display. Police had deployed as many as 600 officers to keep the crowd under control and safe.

Kavin was walking with his father, Kevin Benson of Middle River, near a police command post at Pratt and Light streets when they "just heard a pop," like a firecracker, Benson said.

"Not even two seconds later, my son was screaming," he said. He saw the blood coming from Kavin's leg, grabbed him and ran for a police officer. "It was the scariest moment of my life."

Kavin's parents are hopeful that surveillance video will help police find the person responsible. Detectives are continuing to review footage from CitiWatch cameras for more information to find the source of the bullet, said Brown, the police spokesman.

It's possible that the bullet was a stray, falling from celebratory gunfire, Brown said. Kavin's father hopes the incident reminds people that shooting in the air is dangerous and could kill.

"You've got to be prepared for where that bullet's going to come down," Benson said. "I want justice for my son." Doctors told Moorhead that the bullet passed within an inch of a major artery in Kavin's leg, and he could have bled to death if it had been severed.

Kavin's parents described chaos following the shooting. Moorhead, who was watching the fireworks from nearby Federal Hill, ran for blocks after she received the call from Benson that Kavin had been shot. When she reached police officers near the scene, she said, none of them was able to tell her the condition of her son.

"For 25 minutes I didn't know if my son was dead or alive," she said. Police wouldn't escort her to the hospital, saying that they could not leave their posts, Moorhead said, and because of the heavy traffic after the fireworks it was a long time before she was able to see her son.

It wasn't until a medic on a bicycle, Baltimore firefighter Brian Britcher, arrived on the scene that Benson began to feel like the situation was coming under control. Benson was holding Kavin on the ground and putting pressure on the wound, said Britcher, who then took over.

The next day, Britcher checked in on Kavin at Johns Hopkins Children's Center and found that he had been discharged.

"He only lived six miles from where I live, so I drove up there to see how he was doing," Britcher said. It wasn't just professional obligation that prompted his visit. "I went there as a father myself. I can only imagine how he must have felt. I wanted to see how his son was doing," he said. "Hearing it from him, 'Thank you. My son is up and walking.' That's tremendous. That's better than any medal."

"He's the hero," Benson said. "That man has a very big heart."

Britcher had helped Kavin right after returning from Pier Six, outside McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant, where he was one of three medics who treated the stabbing victim, 26-year-old Joseph Lorenzo Calo.

Calo, along with his brother and several friends, had driven to Baltimore from Winchester, Va., where they had been visiting Calo's 1-year-old daughter.

"He was actually just there in the evening for the fireworks," said Lindsey Reilly, his daughter's mother. "They heard it was a good show."

Calo, of Opelika, Ala., got into a shoving match with a group of men, Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said Tuesday. Calo "re-engaged" the suspect later and was stabbed in the neck with a broken bottle, he said.

"He was a really good father, and we miss him," Reilly said. "There's a little girl that's going to grow up without a father because someone felt the need to be big and tough and use a deadly weapon instead of his fists like a real man."

Ryan Carver, who worked with Calo selling magazine subscriptions across the country, had made business trips to Baltimore with Calo. After Monday night's events, Carver said, he could "never face going back there."

"It just blows my mind that in a crowd … no one could find the man who did it," Carver said. "I just wish that we could bring him back. He was a really good friend of mine. He always knew how to bring somebody up when they were down."