A Florida man has died as a result of being shot 58 years ago.
That's the conclusion of the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s Office regarding the case of the Rev. John Henry Barrett, reports the Sun Sentinel.
Barrett died on May 13 at age 77, as a result of complications from a 58-year-old bullet wound that left him partially paralyzed.
Richard Long, a forensic investigator with the examiner’s office, determined the cause of death after contacting Barrett’s sister, Carla Lott, to find out why he was paralyzed.
He was told that "it was due to [Barrett] being shot in the spine when he was 19 years old," the report quoted Lott as replying.
The immediate cause of death was complications from an infection related to the gunshot wound, reports the Palm Beach Post.
The incident occurred in 1958, when Barrett was shot in the neck by a friend, the bullet damaging his spinal cord.
According to the medical examiner’s report, the person responsible for the shooting was convicted and served time in prison. The report does not identify the shooter, or note the length of the sentence served.
A detective at the West Palm Beach Police Department told the Medical Examiner’s investigator that “the person who shot [Barrett] was purportedly arrested and charged/convicted with a crime,” the report says. “If this is the case, [Barrett’s] shooter could not be charged with another crime due to double-jeopardy.”
For over 30 years, Barrett served as pastor for the New Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Pahokee.
An outspoken advocate for families in the city’s public-housing communities, he became the first African-American executive director of the Pahokee Housing Authority.
In a 1974 Miami Herald interview cited by the Palm Beach Post, Barrett described the shooting as a blessing in disguise, because it meant that he no longer had to work in the field, which is what he had been doing.
He told the Herald: "I don’t believe I’ll ever completely recover. But if the accident hadn’t happened, I would have spent all of my life as a farm worker."
He also used the shooting to inspire others. "He never wanted to be looked upon as being disabled,” said Terrance Lee, Barrett's great nephew. "He wanted to be looked up to as a normal person in society. That’s the way he lived his life."
Lee also spoke highly of Barrett's preaching. "His voice, it commanded attention. All of his messages [seemed like they were] catered specifically for you. That’s how well he knew his audience."