Teen girl shot, forgives alleged shooter, dreams she will walk and dance again

CLEVELAND - A 14-year-old girl spent her Friday morning, not in school, but sitting outside a Cuyahoga County courtroom in a wheelchair. She and her mother were waiting for their chance to get justice.

“I have to learn to walk again,” said Malalja Banks, as she fought back tears, “The shooting took a huge chunk out of my life because in the future I wanted my own dance team. I wanted to teach people how to dance.”

The teen was shot in the afternoon on July 21 when she went to her cousin’s home on the city’s east side with her mother.

Banks said a man who knew her cousin wanted to use a cell phone. The next thing she knew he had a gun in his hand.

“He has a gun pointed in my face, just smiling like it was funny,” Banks said. She said she tried to knock the gun away, but a moment later she was shot.

She was shot in her stomach. The bullet caused nerve damage.

She cannot walk without crutches and is in a great deal of pain.

“I cry every day because it is very, very hard,” Banks said. “It is not easy to learn to walk again. I am hoping one day I will be able to dance.”

Banks and her mother, Mieshia McCoy, say they forgive the alleged shooter, 19-year-old Oliver Salnave, who is facing two counts of felonious assault. His bond was set at $50,000.

“I won’t forget though and I do hope he gets help and realizes how serious this is,” Banks said. “I was on a dance team. I can’t do that anymore. I can’t go to school. I have to have a tutor come to my home because of the pain. This is my freshman year. I wanted to be there.”

The family has started a petition. The petition will be given to the court if the defendant is convicted and they will ask the judge to give him the maximum sentence. They also want to raise awareness about teen gun violence.

The petition can be found online here.