‘I almost died.’ San Jose girl suffers collapsed lung, fractured rib in pellet gun attack

SAN JOSE – A 15-year-old San Jose girl suffered a collapsed lung and a fractured rib in a seemingly random pellet gun attack last week.

Gianna Vitarelli was back at home Monday after spending the weekend in the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center intensive care unit – and still wondering why she was targeted.

“I have no clue why anyone would have shot me,” she told this news organization in an interview.

Gianna, along with her parents Michele and Amelia Vitarelli, said she believed it was a prank gone wrong. The shooter, she said, probably didn’t think a pellet gun could cause any serious harm.

“But they’re wrong,” Gianna said. “I almost died.”

The pellet that entered Gianna’s back missed her heart by a mere inch. Surgeons decided the pellet was too dangerous to remove, but they repaired the damage they could.

“She’s just going to have this bullet inside of her for the rest of her life,” said her mother, Amelia.

An x-ray shows a pellet lodged in the lung of Gianna Vitarelli, 15, of San Jose. She was shot in a seemingly random attack while walking home from the Valley Fair mall on Friday, June 10, 2022.

The attack happened around 3 p.m. Friday as Gianna and a friend were walking home from the Valley Fair mall. Gianna said a car pulled up behind the pair and someone inside opened fire. The car – Gianna believes it was black – then drove away.

“We were very confused about what had happened,” said Gianna, who knew at that point she had been injured but not how badly.

No one was available to pick them up, so Gianna and her friend continued walking to the friend’s home. When they arrived, they contacted police and paramedics for help.

Gianna was initially sent home, but Michele and Amelia later drove her to Kaiser Permanente, where x-rays revealed the true extent of her injuries. She was then rushed to Valley Med for treatment. Doctors there inserted a tube into her damaged lung.

At the hospital, the family learned another young girl had been admitted the same day with pellet gun injuries.

“It’s been a nightmare,” said Gianna’s father, Michele. “We didn’t expect anything like this would ever happen with our kids.”

San Jose police Sgt. Christian Camarillo confirmed similar attacks were reported the same day. At 1:35 p.m., a 42-year-old woman was shot in the parking lot of the Walmart at 4080 Stevens Creek Blvd., and at 2:20 p.m., a 9-year-old girl was shot near the Westgate Center.

Camarillo said police are actively investigating the attacks. No suspect information was available.

Michele said he hoped that sharing Gianna’s story would help bring an end to the attacks.

“We just wanted to get the word out that this is happening,” he said. “Our hope is that the person who is doing this is aware of the severity of the action. You could have killed someone.”

Amelia said the attack has left Gianna and her friend shaken.

“The girls are scared to leave their rooms now,” she said. “You just never know what’s going to happen when you’re walking outside. You could just be walking through a regular suburban neighborhood and be shot in the back. It’s just really scary.”

Gianna, however, is trying to find the good in what happened, Amelia said. The incoming Notre Dame High School junior is interested in pursuing psychology and believes the experience will help her relate to patients who have suffered similar trauma.

“That was very mature and surprising,” her mother said.

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Author: Jason Green