‘It’s amazing what God can do’: Mother speaks after son survives three bullets to head in Gastonia, N.C. shooting

Johnathan Tate Jr. has been on a long road to recovery. In May 2020, the 22-year-old Shelby native took three bullets to the head during a violent shooting.
Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 11:46 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 31, 2021 at 12:25 AM EDT
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GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - Johnathan Tate Jr. has been on a long road to recovery. In May 2020 the 22-year-old Shelby native took three bullets to the head during a violent shooting.

The incident happened May 30, 2020 at a block party on Earl Lane in Gastonia.

Tate and five other people were injured in the shooting. He was rushed to CaroMont Regional Medical Center in Gastonia. Tate’s mother, Thalia Brown, received the dreaded emergency call all mothers fear.

“They told me he had been shot and he had been shot in the head three times and so instantly I dropped to my knees,” said Brown in an interview with WBTV Friday.

She said her son’s initial prognosis was not good. Johnathan was not expected to survive the shooting.

“The doctor came in and spoke to me. He told me there was nothing else he could do for me, that my son was gone,” said Brown.

She said she had already started planning her son’s funeral when she was informed that Johnathan could potentially be saved. CaroMont trauma surgeon Kris Harley delivered the news that Johnathan was showing signs of life. The surgeon spoke to WBTV in a Zoom interview Friday evening.

“As I’m explaining things and telling her if there was some chance of survival, then he would do this or he would do that, and I was actually on the last test, and he proved us wrong. He proved us all wrong,” said Harley.

Brown credits Harley with saving her son’s life.

“Dr. Harley is the one who saved my son’s life and he told me that he needed a surgery and the surgery that he needed, he couldn’t do it, but he could send him somewhere and get it done,” explained Brown.

She said her son was flown to CMC Main in Charlotte where he underwent multiple brain surgeries.

After the procedures, Johnathan was able to begin his recovery. Brown explained that her son suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and that resulted in a stroke.

“Occupational therapy, physical therapy, he had it all. He had to learn to walk again. He had to learn to eat again,” said Brown.

She documented her son’s recovery, taking pictures and recording videos that show Johnathan relearning to talk, eat and walk. Brown said Johnathan is now enrolled in special classes at Central Piedmont Community College for people living with TBIs.

Harley called Johnathan ‘a miracle’.

“He’s able to recognize people. He’s able to move on his own. He makes purposeful movements. If I’m not mistaken, I heard he’s enrolled in school now. I mean that’s just a total blessing. It’s very rare, something that you flat-out don’t see,” explained the surgeon.

Brown called her son’s survival and recovery ‘amazing’.

“It’s amazing what God can do and I see what God has done for my son,” said Brown.

Johnathan has two young children - 1-year-old Jaselle and 7-month-old Joh. He can now hold his kids again. While Johnathan is still learning to speak again he was able to deliver a message for those who have prayed for him, cared for him and supported him.

“Thank you,” said the shooting survivor.

According to Gastonia police, no one has been charged for the shooting that injured Johnathan and five others. Anyone with information about the incident should contact the Gastonia Police Department.

Brown and her family are working to raise money to pay for a new van that can be used to transport Johnathan and his children.

A GoFundMe page has been created to help the family cover the cost of the van.

A link to the page can be found here.

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