A Texas cheerleader who was shot by a spooked driver when a teammate mistakenly got into the wrong car has opened up about the ordeal, saying she was texting and eating Twizzlers when the bullet tore through her back — but tried to keep calm for her terrified friends.
“My spleen was shattered, my stomach had two holes in it and my diaphragm had two holes in it – and then they had to remove a lobe from my pancreas,” Peyton Washington, 18, said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday.
“I was actually texting and [eating] Twizzlers,” the high school senior from Round Rock told co-anchor Michael Strahan of the moments before the terrifying incident. “I didn’t see him, honestly.”
Washington — who led Woodlands Elite Cheer in Houston — was with three fellow cheerleaders when Heather Roth accidentally tried to enter the wrong vehicle to car pool after practice on April 18 — prompting Pedro Tello Rodriguez Jr., 25, to allegedly open fire.
Roth tried to apologize to Rodriguez, who was in the passenger seat, but he opened fire when she went to the right car.
“I turned immediately with my blanket,” Washington said. “I didn’t know where it was coming from or anything, but it being so loud that my ears were ringing, I knew to turn and do something.”
She was hit in the back and leg while Roth was grazed by a bullet.
Washington said she had trouble breathing and realized she had been shot.
“We were tryin’ to get away. I really was just telling myself to breathe. It was hard to breathe because of my diaphragm,” she said on GMA.
“I was trying to stay as calm as possible for the other people in the car. I could tell how sad and scared they were,” Washington continued.
“I saw blood on [my passenger] seat. So I knew somewhere I was bleeding. But I had so much adrenaline, I didn’t really know where,” she said.
“And then whenever we pulled over and opened the door, I was like, ‘Oh, gotta throw up.’ And that’s when I was throwing up blood,” Washington added.
Rodriguez was arrested at his home and charged with deadly conduct, a third-degree felony.
He has yet to enter a plea and has been released after his initial bail of $500,000 was reduced to $100,000, ABC News reported, citing his attorney.
Rodriguez’s attorney, Charlie Baird, told Insider that his client, an employee of a grocery store, had previously been robbed at gunpoint while sitting in his car.
He said the suspect feared that a similar situation was unfolding when the cheerleader entered the vehicle by mistake.
Washington, who had been accepted to Baylor University and was set to join its acrobatics and tumbling team, said on GMA that “the hardest part was after the surgeries.”
Simple activities, like getting out of bed or standing are challenging, she said.
“It was hard … hurting to walk or stand is really weird when, a week before, you were doing a bunch of flips, running the track, and doing long jump, and all this stuff,” Washington said.
“He did what he did, and I’m just gonna try and get through it. There’s no point in me really thinking about what he did,” she added.
Washington joined her classmates at graduation just five weeks after the shooting.
“You can literally do anything if you push and you persevere,” she said. “Don’t doubt yourself ever because you can do anything as long as you’re putting your 120% into it.”
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