GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - Gwinnett County police are searching for the person who opened fire during a semi-pro football game at Lenora Park on Saturday that sent a father to the hospital.
Investigators said witnesses reported a man dressed in all black and mask ran onto the field and shot at cars on Lenora Church Road. Someone in that car shot back at that man.
One of the bullets exchanged landed in Russell "Rusty" Duffee's neck.
Football is life in the Duffee household.
Duffee said his entire family including his wife, two kids, and father attend almost every one of his semi-pro football games
"We're very fam-oriented in the team," he said.
Players mentally and physically prepare for injuries but Duffee said nothing could’ve prepared him for what happened during a timeout at a semi-pro game at the Snellville park.
"Every time the wind hits me, or someone touches my arm, it’s like I’m being electrocuted. I told the doctor that even if I had to live with that the rest of my life, I’d take that over not being able to live at all," Duffee said.
He said tensions were high as some people at the game got into a dispute.
Duffee chalked it up as normal banter.
"Which happens you know but we still just love to play," Duffee said.
He was on the sidelines, talking to his father when he felt a sharp pain in his neck.
"My whole body goes numb, and I fall backward. I tell my dad 'call 911 I’ve been shot,'" he said.
Friends and family were baffled as Duffee couldn’t move his left arm but wasn’t bleeding out.
"Every doctor that I talked to said I was a walking miracle," he said.
He was taken to the hospital where doctors told him football pads lessened the blow of the bullet in his neck, but it’s there to stay-- three millimeters away from his carotid artery.
"It went into my jawbone," he said. "They said they wouldn’t be able to remove it because it’d be too dangerous because if they were to nick the artery with one of their tools, I would bleed to death instantly."
Now supported by a neck brace, Duffee said the sport will always play a role in his life and his family said they’re grateful the pads helped him cheat death.
Duffee said he’s slow to walk and might not play football again, but will teach his son everything he knows.
Anyone with information as to who is responsible for the gunfire is encouraged to give the Gwinnett County Police Department a call.
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