Danielle Sampson tells story of gun violence

If you want to see what gun violence looks like in Central Florida, look into the face of 16-year-old Danielle Sampson.

See her brown eyes, once so bright and alive, now reduced to a glassy, far-off stare.

See her body, once lean and muscular as she dribbled and dodged her way around the basketball court, now so weak that she has to be harnessed into her wheelchair to keep her upright.

Danielle can't move. She can't eat. She can't dress herself or laugh with her friends or practice her free throw. She can't even talk.

But Danielle tells a story about the misery brought by a stray bullet and the real costs of senseless violence that strikes all too often.

More than 70,000 people survive shootings each year. A study by a doctor at the University of California analyzed 317 victims of stray bullets in 2008 and found that, like Danielle, most victims (84 percent) were unaware of the events unfolding that led to the gunfire.

Danielle was sitting in the back of her parents' minivan watching a DVD on her laptop as the family was heading to shop at Orlando Premium Outlets in July. The family lives in Apopka but cut through Pine Hills to give a friend from church a ride home.

The minivan was in the exact wrong place at the exact wrong time when shots were fired from an SUV at a truck that was chasing it. A bullet shattered the rear window of the minivan and pierced Danielle's brain.

Danielle's mother, Alma Fletcher, jumped from the passenger seat to the back of the van and scooped up her only child, blood oozing from her head.

"I was out of my skin," she said of that moment. "I was screaming and crying."

Eight months later, Alma Fletcher is still holding her daughter tightly, still dazed by everything that has happened since that instant on a Sunday evening.

"Everything is different," she told me.

This week a man is on trial in the shooting that forever changed Danielle's life.

Tyrone Mosby is 20 but looks more like 16. His slight frame looks even smaller next to his attorneys in the courtroom. He wears a borrowed suit in an effort to look nice for the jury, but he keeps his chained and shoeless feet — he wears jail-issued slippers and white socks — hidden underneath the defense table.

For Danielle, whatever happens to Mosby doesn't matter.

That couldn't have been more starkly evident than this week than when her parents brought her to the courthouse. They arrived by Lynx bus — the only way they have to transport Danielle.

A van equipped with a wheelchair lift is what the family really needs, but that has been out of the question. Alma Fletcher says she sometimes can't even afford the $14 fee Lynx charges people accompanying her daughter.

Justin Fletcher, Danielle's father, is a custodian at a local school, but Alma Fletcher has been unable to go back to her job as a school media clerk because Danielle requires constant care.

Danielle must be fed every four hours through a feeding tube. She must be repositioned every two hours so she doesn't develop bed sores. And there's a schedule of medicine and stretching exercises for Danielle's arms and legs that Alma Fletcher must keep up with as well. On the days she has help from nurses, she has to make sure they know Danielle's schedule.

The family's home is less than 1,000 square feet, and Danielle's room is too small for all the equipment she requires. So the Fletchers have transformed their living room into a space just for Danielle.