Kpedi: 'I thought half my face was blown off'

Kpedi: 'I thought half my face was blown off'

A former Illinois men's basketball captain is recovering from a gunshot wound to his face he suffered last month in Indiana and recounted the episode in a Facebook post on Wednesday night.

Andy Kpedi, who played for the Illini from 1989 to 1991 and was a captain during the 1990-91 season, was shot on the morning of April 16 by a former tenant at a property Kpedi manages.

"I got a text from one of my tenants saying that he had all five rent payments that he was behind on," Kpedi wrote. "I was shocked because that's a lot of money considering I have already taken him to court for nonpayments of rent and I was granted the judgement. I replied to his text saying that I was coming to collect them."

When he arrived there, Kpedi wrote that the alleged shooter wanted to drive to his brother's house to get the rest of the money.

"We proceeded to his brother's house and he got out acting like he was going into the building," Kpedi wrote. "I didn't think he went in though. He came back, opened up the passenger door and started firing gun shots at me. He missed. I got out of the truck and started running. Unfortunately I fell down because the grass was wet. He caught up to me and stood directly above me. I looked him in the eye as he fired a shot in my face."

Kpedi wrote that all he could hear was a loud noise as the shot went off "barely three feet away from my face."

"The bullet slammed through my cheek (on the) upper right side directly below my eye," Kpedi wrote. "The bullet passed through my neck, bypassing my esophagus, vocal chords and jugular vein, finally lodging in my upper left shoulder. Miraculously, it did not hit any major arteries or organs."

Kpedi said the shooter walked away and Kpedi ran to a building to get some help.

"By this time, there was a lot of blood coming from my face," Kpedi wrote. "I thought half of my face was blown off."

Medical personnel soon arrived after Kpedi knocked on a nearby house and the homeowner called the police.

"It was like my whole life was all in front of me and all these events were happening at the same time," Kpedi wrote. "At a point I asked myself, 'Is this what death is all about?' I knew I wasn't dead because I was trying to stay awake. I could also feel that I was getting cold and that I was fighting very hard to stay awake because I was feeling sleepy."

Once loaded onto an ambulance and transported to an Indianapolis hospital, Kpedi saw his wife.

"The next thing I knew they were taking me to the ICU with tubes running up my nose and a tracheotomy through my neck," Kpedi wrote. "The next day, the news spread around. All my family and friends were coming over. People from everywhere started calling."

Kenny Battle, a former teammate of Kpedi's at Illinois, was in Indianapolis for a basketball tournament and reached out to Kpedi.

"I told him what happened and he tweeted it," Kpedi wrote. "The Illini nation got a hold of it and more calls started pouring in. It was overwhelming. I felt strong and immediately got myself up and started walking. My daughter came there (and) took me walking around the hospital corridors. The doctors were surprised of my remarkable improvement. With tubes down my throat, I ran 10 laps around the ICU. All of this wouldn't have happened if I hadn't had the prayers and support of all my family, friends and the Illini nation."

A transfer from Kankakee Community College in 1989, Kpedi played sparingly as a reserve in the 1989-90 season, averaging 2.8 points in 19 games, including two starts as Illinois finished 21-8 and lost to Dayton in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Kpedi, a native of Nigeria, started 30 games during the 1990-91 season where he averaged 6.5 points and 6.4 rebounds for the Illini, who went 21-10 but were ineligible for any postseason tournaments because of NCAA recruiting violations.

Kpedi was released after nine days in the hospital, according to the Chicago Tribune, and wrote that he has forgiven the shooter.

"When this happened, I was angry at the guy that shot me," Kpedi wrote. "My question to him is, 'What did I do wrong to him?' There are lots of different thoughts. I can not come up with an answer to the questions. Please, just as you have focused your attention to pray for me, now ... I ask of you to focus your attention to pray for him and his family so that we can have hope for tomorrow."