Gun group championing 5-year-old Bradenton shooting victim's need for service dog

kirby@bradenton.comJuly 7, 2014 

MANATEE -- A gunowners group might not be the first place a gunshot victim looks for help, but that's the community that reached out to help 5-year-old Davien Martinez.

Davien was shot in the head July 27, 2013, while lying in bed with his mother. He escaped death but suffered damage to his brain. The drive-by shooting near his home left the then 4-year-old blind in one eye, and his mother, Diane Lopez, said he now has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, an impulse disorder, ADHD and anxiety as a result of the shooting.

To help with those issues, Lopez wants to get her son a service dog that she hopes will be therapeutic. But such a dog will cost about $11,000 and Lopez said she can't afford that on her own.

No arrests have been made

in the case.

Lopez said she wasn't expecting the Tampa Bay Gun Runners, a guns activist group, to be the ones to reach out and offer help.

"It was very surprising," Lopez said. "But it makes sense. It's a good program that's trying to show not all gun owners are bad."

The Tampa Bay Gun Runners started out as a casual gun club in May 2013, and was co-founded by Thomas Ouelette and Scott Baldwin. It quickly developed into a community and now has 3,000 members throughout the state of Florida, according to Ouelette.

Now, in addition to organizing group trips to gun ranges and having get-togethers, the group works to get involved with charitable causes. In addition to Davien's cause, they also sponsored a boys home during Christmas.

Ouelette said Davien's plight spoke to the group.

"It was a gun crime," Ouelette said. "And we want people to know that not all gun owners are bad or irresponsible."

As of 5:45 Monday, 42 people had made a total of $1,520 in donations in Davien's Go Fund Me account, up from $45 just a day earlier. Some donors, who gave a total of $115, identified themselves as members of the Tampa Bay Gun Runners. Ouelette said they have another $447 they have collected so far.

Ouelette said they will also host a barbecue on Saturday at the Florida Firearms Academy in Tampa where they will try to collect more for Davien. The barbecue was planned a while ago, and the Gun Runners thought it would be a good opportunity to call attention to Davien's need.

"There's a possibility that we'll be doing a raffle for gun accessories at the barbecue," Ouelette said. "Then once we have all the donations we'll give it to Davien, probably sometime after the weekend."

Lopez said she was incredibly grateful when the Gun Runners called her.

"It's been kind of a nightmare," she said. "I reached out to other groups for help, but they all gave me the run around."

Lopez believes her son would be greatly helped by the service dog, and she's hoping having that therapeutic presence would mean fewer medical appointments and medications for Davien.

She said she's looked into every funding option she could and hasn't been able to find any organized funding for kids as young as Davien to get service dogs.

"I was surprised by that," Lopez said. "Most places have age minimums of around 10 years old, because they don't think someone younger can take care of a dog. But it wouldn't be Davien alone, I'm with him almost all the time."

The Tampa Bay Gun Runners have also had one of their members with a veterinary background look around for dog options for Davien, because Lopez said Davien is scared of certain dogs.

"It's hard to describe exactly, but he's always been afraid of scarier looking dogs," Lopez said. "Like a lab would be better than a pit bull."

The $11,000 covers the $3,000 for the dog itself and the $8,000 for the training.

Anyone looking to donate to Davien's cause can go to to pledge any amount.

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