Teen shoots woman in the mouth with gun. 26 years later, she fights to free him from jail

On a summer night in July of 1990, Debbie Bairgrie was finishing up what was supposed to be a much needed light-hearted evening with her girlfriends, since she had just given birth to her second child. As she was walking down the streets of downtown Tampa, Florida, she heard someone behind her say, “I’m serious.. give it up.”

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She proceeds to turn around, less than half-a-foot away, she meets face-to-face with a gun barrel pointed by a 13-year-old boy.

Without giving her another moment to respond, the boy pulls the trigger. The bullet flies straight through Baigrie’s mouth and out her jaw, blowing out all of her bottom teeth and ripping a section of her tongue.

26 years later, this is the moment Baigrie, who still remembers every detail clearly, described to TODAY.


Source: today.com

On November 10th 2016, that young boy who pulled the trigger is now 39-years-old. Ian Manuel was freed from his life sentence in prison. Baigrie was the one who fought for his case to be forgiven.


Source: today.com

Just a few hours after his release to freedom, Manuel and Baigrie met at a gas station parking lot and embraced one another like old friends.

Many people described Baigrie as “delusional” and “insane.” How could she hug the man who shot her in the face? How could she forgive him for the years of emotional and physical (10 years of surgery to rebuild her shattered jaw) trauma?

Baigrie told WFLA News Channel 8, that it was “26 years in the making” through letters and phone calls that has formed this incredible friendship and journey to forgiveness.

Days later after Baigrie’s horrific attack, Manuel was arrested from another unrelated case. According to TODAY, he confessed to being the gunman who had shot Baigrie. Although he just entered his teenage years, due to his prior record of misdemeanors, a judge decided to sentence the young boy to life without parole, “Mr. Manuel, we’re going to make an example of you.”

Manuel was alone with all his thoughts of guilt and grief in the prison’s solitary confinement. Two years later during his second Christmas behind bars, he finally mustered up the courage to make a collect call to Baigrie with his apology, “Miss Baigrie, this is Ian. I’m just calling to tell you I’m sorry for shooting you, and I wish you and your family a merry Christmas.”


Source: YouTube Screenshot

The phone call had left Baigrie shaken and surprised. “But he called to apologize. I found it unusual and rare, especially from somebody that young,” she shared with TODAY. From there, the letters poured in. Manuel wrote letters after letters, sharing his day-to-day experiences in prison. Baigrie told TODAY that she was surprised by how articulate his writing was, especially for someone who never started high school. “I thought, wow, this kid is smart. Let’s not waste this life. Let’s give him a chance. He was smart, he was remorseful,” She wrote Manuel back. The healing process started and an unexpected bond began to form.


Source: today.com

Baigrie started to attend Manuel’s court hearings. TODAY reported they would occasionally communicate by exchanging a smile, a thumbs-up sign or a wave during the session. She learned that Manuel had spent nearly 20 years in solitary confinement, separated from the general prison population. He was never allowed to live as a “normal” prisoner. He caused multiple series of rebellion by attempting to inflict physical harm upon himself. No normal teenager placed in complete isolation, who was told he would spend the rest of his life in prison, would react well to such harsh circumstances. Baigrie was deeply upset about Manuel’s conditions.


Source: today.com

In 2010, the Supreme Court overruled life sentences for juveniles. Baigrie immediately advocated for Manuel’s early release. “I figure if I didn’t help and support him, it would be a life lost,” Baigrie shared with TODAY. “And my life wasn’t lost, and I felt like his punishment was way beyond what it should have been.” Eventually, Manual’s life sentence was forgiven, and he was released this past November.


Source: today.com

The emotional and embracing reunion of Baigrie and Manual led to a pizza date in downtown Tampa, on the streets where Baigrie had been shot 26 years ago. Manual shared with her his life aspirations which includes writing a book and finding a job to start his new chapter in life. In return, Baigrie shared pictures of her life, as she is a mother of two, a body builder and a successful magazine publisher.

Manual told TODAY that Debbie is his ‘guardian angel’ and a ‘second mom.’ His birth mother had passed away while he was in prison.

With Debbie Bairgrie’s incredibly kind soul, she is a living earth angel. Reported by USNews24, she is currently raising money to sponsor at-risk youth, kids that were like Ian Manuel, so that they may have the opportunity to attend college. Baigrie hopes that her friendship with Manuel will inspire others to forgive and let go of their pain.

“We all make mistakes, we all try our best, and life is so short,” she explained to TODAY. “And if anybody knows how your life can be gone in one minute, it’s me. I understand that. We have to forgive, because it helps us heal.”

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