Calif. Man Visiting N.C. for Friend's Wedding Is Paralyzed After Drive-By Nightclub Shooting

Harriet Sokmensuer

A California man has been left paralyzed after being struck by a bullet during a random shooting outside a nightclub in Asheville, North Carolina, and police are still searching for the gunman.

On Oct. 4, Pedro Ventura was shot in the back of the neck after a stranger opened fire into a group of people outside of an Asheville nightclub. Despite there being 300 people in the street, Ventura was the only person struck in the drive-by.

Ventura was in town for one night from Los Angeles for a friend’s wedding, “but the course of his life was changed forever,” a GoFundMe page set up to help pay for medical expenses states.

The bullet shattered Ventura’s spine and severed his spinal cord. He was initially left paralyzed from the neck down and unable to breathe without assistance.

However, in the weeks since the shooting, Ventura has reportedly made incredible strives in his recovery, including being able to breathe on his own.

“We were told about 30 hours later that he would never be able to breathe on his own or move at all, but he’s still here, still fighting, 12 days out, and he’s breathing deep and dancing with his shoulders when I play him the songs we love,” Ventura’s partner, Ezra Glenn, wrote in a Facebook status on Oct. 16.

Glenn told the Asheville Citizen Times that Ventura is mentally sharp but unable to speak because he has a ventilator.

As of Monday, the GoFundMe has raised $415,000 of its $500,000 goal.

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Ventura grew up in New York City after his family immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic when he was four.

“Despite not speaking English when he arrived, he was placed in gifted and talented school programs almost immediately,” the GoFundMe states.

In 2010, Ventura graduated with honors from Wesleyan University. He was the first in his family to go to college. He began a career in the music industry and has lived in New York, Miami and Los Angeles.

“An incredibly dedicated friend, family member, worker, and partner, Pedro is always the first person to volunteer to help and always has the biggest smile on his face,” according to the GoFundMe. “His compassion for others is palpable, his creativity knows no bounds, and he is beloved by all those who know him.”

As friends and family support Ventura, who will need care for the rest of his life, Asheville police continue to investigate the shooting.

“APD is diligently working to follow all leads and analyze all evidence so that the person(s) responsible can be held accountable,” police department spokeswoman Christina Hallingse said in an email to the Citizen Times. (PEOPLE could not reach the Asheville Police Department for comment Tuesday.)

Anyone with information is urged to contact Asheville police at 828.252.1110.