99 to 1: Foreman’s Damari Hendrix returns 14 months after being shot in the head

Damari Hendrix of Foreman was shot in the head at LaFollette Park in Sept, 2016. He's now back playing basketball. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

Labor Day violence is a tragic fact of life in Chicago. For some, it is something to read about, lines of text with ages and locations. For others, those names belong to friends and family who’ve had their lives taken away or ripped apart.

Damari Hendrix was one of those lines of text on Labor Day weekend in 2016: “16-year-old-boy shot in LaFollete Park. He was shot in the head and went to Mount Sinai in critical condition.”

Doctors told Jorie Hendrix, Damari’s mom, that there was a 99 percent chance he wouldn’t survive the operation they needed to perform on his head.

“I don’t know why, but I just knew he would be ok,” Jorie Hendrix said. “Damari is my fighter. That’s been my outlook ever since the incident happened.”

Damari Hendrix survived. He relearned how to talk and how to walk. Against all odds, the Foreman junior was back on the basketball court Monday, dunking during the first practice of the season.

LaFollette Park is where Hendrix and his friends hang out, he grew up there. On the Saturday night of the shooting Hendrix was there with his little brother, his teammate Bobby Hughes and other boys and girls.

“It was a normal day,” Hendrix said. “On Saturdays the older people play five-on-fives. We waited until they were done and played until it got too dark. Then we were just sitting around laughing and having a good time.”

Then, in the distance, Hendrix saw a group walking towards him

“In that neighborhood when you see a group of people walking towards you, you need to move,” Hendrix said. “Right away, I told my little brother to leave and he headed home. We started grabbing our stuff and then they started shooting at us.

“I didn’t know I was hit until I was running and my body started shutting down. I couldn’t see, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk or move my body.”

Hendrix had dreadlocks, so the paramedics couldn’t initially see that the gunshot was in his head.

“They couldn’t find where I was bleeding from,” Hendrix said. “Then they started squeezing my head and the bullet came out. The blood started gushing and it was hot.”

Hendrix had three surgeries and was in a medically-induced coma for four days. The rehabilitation was a battle. He was shot on the right side of his head which effected his left side. He’s left-handed.

“I was in therapy three times a day for four months,” Hendrix said. “I was on a liquid diet. Everything came back slowly. It was a month or two until I could talk.”

At one point he gave up hope of playing sports.

“I didn’t think I would ever hoop again,” Hendrix said. “I was giving away my hooping shoes. I really didn’t think I was going to play sports again.”

Hughes and some friends visited Hendrix at the hospital. Hendrix was in a wheelchair, but they went up to the roof, where there is a basketball court.

“I couldn’t walk yet, but I wanted to shoot a basketball,” Hendrix said. “The recovery was gradual, but that was a big moment. When you are a kid you want things to happen quick and fast and it just wasn’t happening fast enough for me. It was going so slow I didn’t think I’d ever get back. But everyone kept telling me that I was progressing.”

Hendrix was home-schooled sophomore year. That isolation and rehabilitation was difficult.

“Waking up in the morning was tough sometimes,” Hendrix said. “You don’t remember right away that you can’t do everything you used to do. Then you look in the mirror and realize. I was sad, wondering why it had to be me. It isn’t great waking up that way.”

The night Hendrix was shot word went around on social media that he was dead.

“Everyone was tweeting RIP Damari,” Foreman junior Ramonte Walker said. “His mom had to tell everyone he wasn’t dead. It was confusing and there were a lot of emotions going around.”

The shooter was never caught. Jorie Hendrix says the police lost interest in the case when they found out her son survived.

“That doesn’t matter to me,” Jorie Hendrix said. “I have my child’s life. That is all that matters.”

Monday was just practice. Foreman’s first game this season is on Nov. 20.

“It will be like LeBron’s return to Cleveland,” Walker said. We’re so excited to see him back on the court.”

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20 comments

  • Ms. M

    Oh my God I had no idea this was my student at Lewis. I am so glad you are okay God bless and I will be out to see you!

  • Lucinda Bogda

    I graduated from Forman in 1983 god bless you and go hornets 💛💙💛💙💛💙💛💙💛💙💛

  • JW

    So happy for Damari, his mom, and all of his family and friends. I continue to wish him good fortune in the future. Looking to hear more from him in the future!

  • Parnell squire

    Thank you god and damari wacth this young man go pro never give up this you man is god light to hope and love go foreman win the state c.ship

  • ace

    Fact of life? How about turning these vermin in instead of some stupid code

  • Granny

    I am so proud of you, my grandson. Stay focused and aim for the sky. God has your back.

  • DIANE CZASZEWICZ

    Damari I’m so glad you are okay. Angels watch over you.

  • West

    May God Bless and Keep you for the rest of your life! Noone understands something like this, except those that have been through it and survived. It is something none of us want to experience. Keep your focus. Work hard in school. Spend quality time in the library or home studying. Treat your authority figures with respect. And never give up. And most important put God First! And you will be just fine!

  • Reggie Scott

    Young man you are destined too be great, pl ease share your story with others, and by all means have a fantastic year, God bless you and your family.

  • EmmettJones

    Please stop the gun violence over streets and playgrounds you don’t even own. Moreover, do not let this system turn you into something that you’re not.

  • jordan

    Praise G-d for the kid and his family. The few people in the Black community has to stop thinking that killing each, raping our women, dropping out of school, the blame game is the correct way to live. Most Black males don’t own ANY of the property they are fighting over. I’m not saying all Black men behave this way but the ones that are need to stop embarrassing them selves. Change your mine, you change your world.

  • Leo Carney

    Very inspirational story I wish this young man the very best. The tragic part of this story came at the end when the statement about the police losing interest because he survived. It’s a sad reality in certain communities in Chicago that the police don’t care. In some instances maybe but the perception is there will be no justice if you’re a victim of violence.

  • In God's Hands

    Being from Chicago, like many other, I too know how it feels to be shot at and although the person missed all six shots, I was left with a sense that God must have plans for my life. Although that purpose may not be clear to you and your family yet, just know that what GOD has for you, no person on earth can take it from you! Prayers go up and blessings come down!

  • Patricia LaVerne Davis

    God Bless You young man. It is a blessing to see you made it back by the Grace of God. I used to live and and participate in several activities at Lafollette Park. i was so hurt when I heard about You. Thank God you’re okay. You will always be in my heart and prayers. Love You.

  • Vashon

    Great story! Good luck Damari, wishing all the best both on and off the court!

  • Chris

    Thank God he’s ok….I will be rooting for you all season!!

  • rjm

    You are already a hero kid. Good luck this year.

  • Tony

    Go get em kid, show them what you got on every play.

  • DrMal

    God Bless you, may his light continue to shine on you!

  • mikenike

    Hope you have a great season, Damari. Very happy you made it back.

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