In 1992, 17-year-old Shawna was working as a grocery store cashier when she found herself in the middle of a robbery. She says Jerrie, 14, held her at gunpoint and shot her in the face. For the first time since that day, Shawna confronts her attacker.
One Terrible Night
On a busy Friday night in January, 1992, 17-year-old Shawna was working part-time as a grocery store cashier alongside her high school sweetheart, Bob, when she found herself in the middle of a robbery. She says Jerrie, 14, came into the store with another girl and shouted, “Everyone on the ground. This is a robbery.” Shawna says Jerrie held her at point blank range with a sawed-off shotgun and demanded the money from her register. “The last thing I remember her saying was, ‘Bitch, I want it all.’”
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“It just happened so fast,” Bob says.
“The gun went off. Everything turned black,” Shawna explains. “I recall someone saying, ‘We’re losing her. We’re losing her.’” Doctors determined that the bullet entered Shawna’s lower jaw, and took off her chin, lower lip and bottom teeth. The force of the blast fractured her upper jaw. “The only way I could describe it was my face was melting,” she says. “I felt like my face was on the sun.”
“There was blood everywhere; all over the floor, all over the cash register,” Bob says. “It’s a miracle that Shawna survived.”
Three people were arrested for the events that day, including Mark Strickland, who was convicted of organizing the robbery. Jerrie Jones and her female accomplice were given six-year sentences in juvenile detention.
Shawna says that because Jerrie was a minor, she was allowed to hide her face during the trial. “She would not make eye contact with me,” Shawna says. “Jerrie Jones could hide but I can’t hide. I couldn’t hide then, and I can’t hide now.”
For the last 21 years, Shawna says she’s endured 100 painful surgeries, panic attacks and public ridicule. She says she’s been called a “monster” and a “Cabbage Patch doll,” and that children call her gross. “Every time I look in the mirror, I am reminded of what she did to me,” Shawna says. “This is a lifelong sentence. It’s not fair that her sentence was six years.”
Shawna says she’s sometimes unable to leave the house for weeks at a time due to the depression. She says she still has nightmares as often as three times per week. “Twenty-one years later, and I still can’t forget it,” she says. “I didn’t get to live my dreams. My dream now is to get one good night of sleep.”
Shawna agonizingly recalls the details of the shooting.
Shawna shares the cruelest part of her wounds. “This is far worse than the physical pain.”
“When I was a teenager, I got mixed up in the wrong crowd,” Jerrie says. She says her friend introduced her to Mark Strickland, who told them that he had robbed Ken’s grocery store several times, and it was easy. Jerrie says Mark gave her a gun and told her it was empty. “My intentions were never to hurt her,” she says.
Jerrie says that she was shocked when Shawna was shot. “The gun just went off,” she says. “I don’t remember pulling the trigger of the gun.”
Jerrie was charged with felonious assault and robbery, and she says she turned her life around in jail.
“In the back of my head, I don’t think about Shawna,” Jerrie confesses. “God has closed out that part of my life. I’ve been moving on and moving forward with my life. I paid my debt to society and to Shawna because I did my time in jail.
“I don’t feel like it was my fault because I feel like I was used by an adult,” Shawna continues. “I’m a victim as well. I was a victim too.”
Who is Jerrie all these years later? Dr. Phil is surprised by her series of statements.
“Why do you have a chip on your shoulder? You shot her in the face!”
Dr. Phil goes backstage and asks Shawna how she feels about meeting face to face with Jerrie. She says she is ready.
“I recommend that you do it, and I’ll tell you why,” Dr. Phil tells her. “I think monsters live in the dark. I think that if there are things that scare us, we tend to build them up in our mind. I think you have fixated on her with a gun in her hand at 14, coming in, in a menacing and threatening way, and that person is gone. The person that you are left with is the person who is here. I think you can replace that image, which no longer exists, with the image, for better or worse, with what it is now.
“I think she is being defensive because she knows her position is hard to defend,” Dr. Phil says. “Sometimes, people just can’t give you what they don’t have.”
Dr. Phil tells Shawna not to be intimidated and to just tell her how she feels. “Should we go?” he asks.
“I have to,” Shawna tells him.
Face to Face
For the first time since the shooting, Shawna and Jerrie come face to face on Dr. Phil’s stage.
“I do forgive you,” Shawna tells Jerrie. “But it angers me that I have to live with it every day and you don’t. It angers me that no one has to know who you are. You can walk around and no one has to stare at you. That angers me.”
“I just want you to know that I’m so sorry,” Jerrie tells her.
“I just don’t want to be afraid of you anymore. I don’t want to see you in my nightmares anymore with that gun.”
“I feel like a weight has been lifted,” Shawna tells Dr. Phil. “I didn’t expect that from her. But when she and I spoke, it was real; it felt real. I don’t think I will fear her anymore.”
Dr. Phil asks Shawna if she gives herself credit for her remarkable strength.
Dr. Phil offers Shawna help for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“This is treatable,” Dr. Phil tells her. “We work with the leading experts in PTSD in the world, and I would like to bring them to your doorstep.”
“Are you glad you came here?” Dr. Phil asks Shawna.
“I’m happy. I’m so happy,” she tells him, smiling. “I feel so much better.”
“You gave her a real gift today,” Dr. Phil tells Jerrie.