This is part of a four-part series on Milwaukee shooting survivors who have turned their lives around. See all the stories at TMJ4.com/EndViolenceMKE.
After taking two bullets to his head, Bernard Carpenter's dreams disappeared.
"I was getting ready to go to Portland for my last try out and I went over to [a friend's] house to let him know after I signed the contract, you no longer have to sell drugs," Carpenter said. During the visit, the men were both shot. Carpenter's friend died in the car next to him.
Carpenter wasn't expected to walk ever again.
"Here I am, 35 years later, still playing basketball and still rollerskating," he said. "God has us here for a reason, every one of us here for a reason. And that light will shine through us."
One of Carpenter's reasons is so he can act as a violence interrupter in Milwaukee through 414 LIFE.
"I’m a firm believer that if it was my time I would have been gone 34 years ago," he said of his work. Now he feels confident working to deter other people headed down a dangerous road. "Let them see that ok this can happen to you. You might not be as fortunate."
He said he believes education and support helps keep young people from violence.
"We ain't got to worry about sitting in class because I cant really read or I don’t know math, I'm gonna flunk this test. It's easy not to do that so they don’t have to be embarrassed," he said. "You don't never have to be embarrassed to pull the trigger."
So believes there's a generational pattern that's allowed education to become low priority. He hopes to find ways to draw young people into better futures.
"Playing basketball, whatever it is that will draw their attention. First we gotta draw their attention, then well put the education or whatever it is on the to try and change their thinking," he said.
To view 414 LIFE's comprehensive efforts to prevent and reduce violence, click here.
For more information or resources through the City of Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention, click here.