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Milwaukee man who survived being shot in the face explains how spike in gun violence feels to victims

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Posted at 9:50 PM, May 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 23:30:12-04

MILWAUKEE — A single bullet changed everything for Milwaukee native Claude Motley.

He was shot in the face and survived. The events that followed that terrible event became chronicled in a documentary that is now streaming on PBS called "When Claude Got Shot."

In 2014, he was visiting his hometown of Milwaukee for a high school reunion. Motley was checking some messages on his cell phone after dropping off a friend at 68th and Capitol. He didn't notice until it was too late that two cars had pinned him in.

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Claude Motley appears in the documentary 'When Claude Got Shot."

"I knew something was happening and that's why I tried to escape,” said Motley.

Motley says as he tried to drive off, the person approaching him shot into his window. He didn’t know he had been hit until he made it down the street.

"I realized that I had been shot in the jaw and I looked down and there was a bunch of blood falling. That's when I realized, you know, the hospital,” said Motley.

Claude Motley's x-ray after shooting
Claude Motley's Doctor shows an X-Ray of the damage on his jaw in the documentary, "When Claude Got Shot"

But the violence did not end there. Motley's convicted shooter, Nathan King who was 15 years-old at the time, was caught after he was shot. King was trying to steal a car from a woman in Milwaukee who was carrying a gun. King was paralyzed from the waist down after he was shot.

"He was only 15 years-old, though, you know, and that was also a tragic thing,” said Motley. "Such violence was involved in his life at such an early age."

Despite everything, Motley says he feels sympathy for people like King, who is currently serving a 12-and-a-half year prison sentence.

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Claude Motley appearing in the documentary about what happened after he was shot through the jaw called, "When Claude Got Shot."

"It really affects a whole family. It affects loved ones and the community as a whole and it takes a little away,” said Motley.

In 2014, the year Motley was shot, Milwaukee had reached a reach number for non-fatal shootings. There were 581. In 2020, the city had a new record of 752 non-fatal shooting. It grew again last year to 859. But those numbers frustrate Motley, because he knows each number is a person battling pain and trauma while trying to regain their life.

"People are really numb to the realities of gun violence. How it ripples through the community,” said Motley. "We are always told that gun crime is on the rise, especially, specifically gun violence. But what that does is give narratives that are so broad and impersonal, it does the opposite of informing these communities."

"When we hear about all the shooting happening it is in a sense de-humanizing, as it doesn't really paint the entire picture of what it is to survive gun violence,” said Dr. Terri deRoon-Cassini who is a psychologist at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin.

She is also the director of the Comprehensive Injury Center for the Medical College of Wisconsin. The center treats gun violence as a health crisis and works to provide physical and mental health care to survivors.

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Claude Motley returns to the house he lived in during his teenaged years in Milwaukee during the documentary, "When Claude Got Shot."

"If we look at the root causes of certain communities being disproportionately affected by gun violence, absolutely. And that is routed in our long-standing city history of segregation, structural discrimination, and racism. And so, it doesn't help to paint people as other, we need to help everybody,” said DeRoon Cassini.

"I just really hope that we start making the issues of what causes gun violence the forefront,” said Motley. "We have to talk about why these people are making decisions that they feel so hopeless at such a young age to pick up a gun throw away their lives."

Motley says the mental trauma and constant pain victim's of gun violence endure doesn't heal quickly. He is still dealing with those affects as well.

Motley's documentary “When Claude Got Shot” will have a special showing at the Oriental Theater in Milwaukee on Thursday, May 26 at 6:30 p.m. The tickets are free but you are asked to sign up online here.

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