DENVER — After losing so much, Jimmy Maldonado meditates and prays at his altar at home. Now, he said, those quiet moments have shown him he has so much to live for.
"My family, my community, the love and support and all the encouragement," Maldonado said.
He was the sole survivor of the three people shot at Sol Tribe Tattoo and Piercing during the Dec. 27 shooting spree that left five people dead in Denver and Lakewood. The suspected shooter died after being shot by a Lakewood police officer.
Maldonado's wife, Alyssa Gunn-Maldonado, and his friend, Alicia Cardenas, were working in the next room when they were killed.
"Then I look up and just like that, I just saw somebody and I got shot," Maldonado said. "I kind of just rolled over underneath this bench and just laid there. I could see his footsteps and I just kinda laid there like I was dead."
Maldonado said that's when two Sol Tribe customers came to his aid.
"They saved my life, you know, it was because of them. They kinda saw me move a little bit and they were able to be like hey, we got to get up and go," Maldonado said. "If I didn’t have somebody to be like 'get up, let’s go,' and just maybe put those words of encouragement in my head, I don’t think I would’ve made it."
Maldonado was shot through his collarbone and the top of one of his lungs. He believes he survived because of his physical fitness. He's been competing in jujitsu for years in addition to being a dancer and an avid runner.
"Everything I've been doing for these last 20 years, it's almost like it led up to this moment in time," Maldonado said.
Mentally, he has struggled over why.
"Believe me, there was many times when I wanted to give up," Maldonado said. "When I was in the hospital, I had crazy thoughts, you know. I didn't want to be here anymore."
Then, Maldonado said he thought of his 12-year-old son and how Alyssa was a loving stepmom.
"The more that I go through her things and just read things of hers, I just realize how freaking amazing she was," Maldonado said.
He thinks of his friend Alicia, whom he has known since their days at Skinner Middle School in Denver.
"She was just a fierce woman," Maldonado said.
Maldonado said he now has to find purpose in life.
"The thing that's really been keeping me going is just the community, you know, my community, my family, my friends," Maldonado said. "That is really, truly what has gotten me through it is just the love and support, the encouragement, the positive words, all of it."
He believes Sol Tribe will come back.
"It's gonna be fine and we're gonna thrive again," Maldonado said.
The bullet is still lodged in his body. On Wednesday, Maldonado will see his doctor to find out more about the trajectory of his recovery. He hopes to get back to jujitsu and running at some point. He said his journey back is his way of honoring the memories of his wife and friend.
"I'm gonna be OK. You know, I know it's gonna take time, but there's no doubt in my mind that I'm gonna be fine and I'm gonna see this through in a good way," Maldonado said.
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