By Rosemary Regina Sobol
6:06 PM CDT, June 13, 2013
School bus driver Joe Bradley said he was “doing fine ... considering they just took a bullet out of my hand,’’ one day after someone opened fire at the bus he was driving in the Washington Park neighborhood.
“It didn’t go through,’’ said 63-year-old Bradley of the .380-caliber bullet that hit his right hand. “But it was painful. I’ve never been shot before. It’s a bad feeling.’’
Bradley was recovering today at his Far South Side home, getting ready for more doctor appointments, including to a plastic surgeon.
Bradley had just dropped his last Kate S. Buckingham Special Education Center student off Wednesday at a home near 51st Street and Indiana Avenue when he saw a bunch of kids outside the bus while slowing down approaching a red light at 61st Street and King Drive. Then, the noise.
“I heard rapid fire at the bus. For a while I didn’t know they were shooting at the bus because I couldn’t imagine somebody shooting at the bus,’’ said Bradley, who has worked for Sunrise Transportation for the last eight years since losing his job at Sara Lee when that company left town.
Bradley said he remembers feeling a “stinging’’ in his right hand as a window on the right side shattered when bullets smashed through it.
The kids on the street “took off” running when the firing started about 4:30 p.m.
Bradley, still holding the wheel of the bus, drove into the intersection to try and get away but stopped there because the pain became too much.
The only other person on the bus, attendant Wayne Lucas, 54, was not hurt. “He’s my best attendant. He did everything he could,’’ Bradley said.
Bradley had the presence of mind to quickly call his base at Sunrise to tell them what happened. “They were more panicky than I was,’’ he said, chuckling.
Police and paramedics rushed to the scene and he was taken to the hospital, where doctors removed the bullet and placed a cast on his hand, but kept his fingers free.
“They want my fingers moving," he said. “They say it will heal."
When Clementine Bradley got a phone call yesterday afternoon from Sunrise saying that her husband was shot while driving his school bus, she thought the worst.
“They told me he was shot in the head,’’ said Mrs. Bradley, 65, who is also a bus driver for Sunrise and also worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 30 years.
“It’s nerve-wracking,’’ said Mrs. Bradley, who said she and her husband started working for Sunrise on the very same day.
“I thought I’d find him with a big cut. He was scared,’’ she said of her husband. “He didn’t know where the bullet came from. Blood was gushing everywhere."
Joe Bradley said although he almost always sees a group of kids hanging at the corner, nothing like this has ever happened before and he drives the same route every day.
“Even little kids throw rocks at the bus,’’ Bradley said. “In the winter they throw snowballs."
He said he did not see the shooter but is sure the gunman was targeting the bus. However, police said it appeared to be a stray bullet and the driver was not the target.
Bradley says though he is left-handed, it’s hard to move around with the wound.
“I need help to brush my teeth and I can’t put my belt in the belt loops … it’s almost impossible,’’ he said.
But Bradley says he loves driving so much, he is hoping this will only be a temporary setback.
“This hand is so bad it’s going to be a while before I can drive. I like driving but this hand is not going to let me do nothing’’ for now, Bradley said.
Bradley thought for moment before answering when asked what he would say to the shooter, if he could.
Anyone who could shoot at a bus is "sick," Bradley said. "They don’t care because they could have easily killed someone.’’
Tribune reporters Deanese Williams-Harris and Adam Sege contributed.
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