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DiDonato testifies he told friend: ‘Don’t let me die,’ after being shot six times

Tuesday, 8th February 2011

Categories Boy's/Men's, Posted 2/8/11
Staff Report

While lying on the ground after taking six bullets to his abdomen and hand from a semi-automatic gun, Eddie DiDonato told his friend, “Don’t let me die!”

DiDonato was the first to give testimony today at Philadelphia Common Pleas Court as Assistant District Attorney Jan McDermott began to make her case against Gerald Ung. A third-year Temple law student at the time of the incident, Ung, 29, is charged with attempted murder for shooting the former La Salle College High and Villanova University lacrosse standout on Jan. 17, 2010, in the Old City section of Philadelphia.

DiDonato, now 24, of Blue Bell, still has a noticeable limp due to partial paralysis in his left leg and the scars of 11 surgeries and four bullets still in his body.

Before his testimony began, Ung’s defense attorney, Jack McMahon, told the jury that, “This case is about privileged, drunken bullies, four tough guys, big-muscle guys” and that Ung was acting only in self-defense because DiDonato and his three friends had continually rushed him to start a fight.

DiDonato testified that he and four friends had been out late on the nightclub scene and ran into Ung and his two friends after one of DiDonato’s friends began doing chin-ups on a scaffolding

Ung’s female friend began to do chin-ups beside him and that angered Ung, DiDonato testified. One of DiDonato’s friends began arguing with Ung back-and-forth while Ung’s friends tried to pull him away and DiDonato tried to pull his friend away.

The altercation continued down the street (between 3rd and 4th streets and Market Street) while DiDonato pleaded with his friend to stop so the group could go home. DiDonato testified that Ung soon pulled out a gun and pointed it at Kelly.

DiDonato then said he approached Ung in a further attempt to diffuse the situation.

The prosecutor asked DiDonato if he said anything to Ung.

“Yeah – ‘Who ya gonna shoot man? What’s gonna happen here?’

“It was the first time I encountered a gun. I didn’t know how to react – I tried to get him to put it away, so we could go our separate ways and call it a night.”

DiDonato continued, “I remember getting hit two times, then I fell forward. He got off another four shots and I fell on him.

“I couldn’t get up, my foot was paralyzed and (my friend) made me stay down.”

DiDonato said that Ung asked him, “Why did you make me do that?” He responded: “I didn’t do anything.”

In cross examination, McMahon asked, DiDonato: “Nobody did or said anything to the little Asian girl, but the defendant was enraged with no one saying or doing anything?”

DiDonato said he wasn’t paying much attention to Ung when thealtercation began because he was laughing at his friend doing the chin-ups.

“He was having a verbal back-and-forth with (my friend),” DiDonato told the jury. “I was focused on getting my buddy out of there.

“I said, ‘Come on man, let’s get a cab.’ It was a fast altercation, I didn’t have time to grab my buddy.”

McDermott had said in her opening statements that one could wonder how Ung felt justified in the shooting.

“He felt he was justified in pulling out a semi-automatic gun that he took with him while going out for a night of drinking and then shooting six times,” she told the jury.

“He wasn’t in fear of bodily injury!

“The defendant resisted handcuffs and wouldn’t give the gun to the police. They had to pull their guns to get his gun. Use every day common sense and watch and listen.”

McMahon had a different version.

“He was about to finish (law school) in the spring semester when this happened. He is of impeccable reputation, not malevolent, evil, wicked, no matter how the commonwealth twists and turns things. He is a fine young man.

“He had no ill will towards DiDonato. DiDonato made bad decisions that night. Did he suffer? Did he have pain and injuries? Yes, but don’t look at his injuries for sympathy, look at them for fact.

“We don’t dispute he was injured seriously. There was no desire or intent to hurt him. The enormity of tragedy does not equal culpability.”

DiDonato testified that he spent 43 days at Jefferson University Hospital and seven weeks at Magee Rehabilitation Center. He testified that he goes to therapy three times a week and still has problems with his bladder and his balance and more serious problems with his leg.

“At 23, you don’t expect that you can’t go to the bathroom or sit up and make a muscle,” he continued. “I couldn’t eat for 40 days.

“My life today vs. what it was prior: nothing is similar.

“I played sports, I went out with friends; now it is different. I walk with pain, my foot may never wake up; I have no feeling in the back of my legs.

“I am afraid I will mess myself. I still have four bullets inside my clavicle and spinal nerve. Two are protruding that I can feel every day back below my shoulder blade and lower back.

I weighed 223 then, now I am 184.

“I’m a different person mentally and emotionally.

“I wouldn’t wish this on anybody, what I have been through and seen. I still have flashbacks. I worry a lot.

“Mentally it is a struggle that I will never be the person I was before. I thought of myself as an athlete and now I may never be able to do those things.

“Life will never be what it once was.”


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