• Brianna Ramirez, 16, was caught in gang crossfire near her Parlier home Feb. 12 and shot in her right eye.
• A $9,000 reward is available for information leading to the arrest of the shooter in Brianna’s case.
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• At a Thursday news conference, Brianna offered encouragement to others who are crime victims. “It gets easier, it really does.”
Surrounded by a circle of teammates on Thursday at Sanger High School, 16-year-old shooting victim Brianna Ramirez beamed a radiant smile.
“Strong — she’s strong,” softball coach Erica Pennington said after wiping away tears.
It had been three weeks to the day since Brianna had seen most of their faces. While riding in the passenger’s seat of her mother’s car near her Parlier home on Feb. 12, Brianna was shot in the right eye.
She was barely conscious in the hospital when she asked: When could she return to her team and her post at second base? They needed her, she said. She couldn’t miss the big game.
She had a different purpose Thursday. Detectives are still searching for the unknown shooter, and Brianna delivered a message at a news conference at her high school.
“I do believe someone knows something, they just don’t want to own up to it,” Brianna said. “Not just for my sake, but my whole neighborhood’s sake, I would like someone to speak up.”
There have been two more shootings in Brianna’s Parlier neighborhood since she was wounded, authorities said. No one was hurt in the other incidents.
A $9,000 reward is available for information leading to an arrest in the shooting that injured Brianna. Until the shooter is found, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said, “we are going to work this case and work this case and work this case.”
“Brianna’s injury is very, very serious and it was only by God’s grace that she wasn’t taken from us that day,” Mims said.
Brianna’s family said she spent nearly a week in the hospital on breathing and feeding tubes.
Brianna said Thursday that she is “beyond blessed to be here.”
“Getting back on the field pushes me to get better,” she said.
Brianna offered encouragement to others who are crime victims. “It gets easier, it really does.”
Of her injury, she said, “I’m doing good. I mean, it does get difficult seeing with one eye, but it’s not impossible. I am able to pull through it.”
Brianna is being home schooled as she continues to heal. Brianna said she will receive a prosthetic eye.
“There’s a lot of stares,” she said about her first visit to Sanger High since the shooting. She wears a white patch over her right eye. “But it feels good to be back.”
Sanger Unified School District Superintendent Matt Navo said he is “immensely inspired” by her. “She’s incredibly positive in the face of what was a tragic circumstance.”
Mims said something similar. “I just want to acknowledge what a courageous, brave young woman that Brianna is. … When I asked her about this press conference today, her comment was, ‘I got this. I’m fine.’ ”
Her softball team is right behind her. To benefit Brianna’s family, players sold 4,000 bracelets in a week for $2 each. At the end of Thursday’s news conference, the Apaches showered her with hugs and a prayer. Of their support, Brianna said, “it means the absolute world for me.”
“She is the hardest worker,” Coach Pennington said. “You want 18 of her out there. This just shows what a fighter she is … to get through everything she’s been through and still have this positive outlook on life and school and softball — it’s exactly her. She’s wonderful.”
Her teammates think so, too.
“She’s just an overall beautiful person,” said Eliana Cazares, 17. “She’s nice to everybody. She always has a great attitude on and off the field.”
Alexandra Azua, 17, added, “It really is just heartbreaking that someone so innocent has to go through something like that.”
Others are raising money to help with the family’s expenses. A GoFundMe account and the “Brianna Ramirez Fund” at Bank of the West are set up to take cash donations toward helping pay for Brianna’s medical bills, future rehabilitation and to help the family replace their car. Mims said the car Brianna was riding in Feb. 12 no longer runs after it was struck in a hail of bullets.
Sanger High players plan to bring 650 bracelets to sell at a “softball friendly” Sunday at Madera South High School. Twenty-one teams will play games from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to raise money for Brianna. Admission is $1 and the public can buy benefit T-shirts for $10 (to cover the printing cost, $4.50 of each sale goes to Brianna). The shirts read, “Together we will fight. Bases for Brianna to stop the violence.” On the back is a “3” — Brianna’s high school jersey number.
Brianna will be at Sunday’s event. She’s looking forward to the day she can play again.
“I can’t wait to go back.”