After Senaca Lapsley’s sentencing hearing Thursday morning, 26-year-old Zach Huddleston went back to the hospital for a likely admission and more tests.
It’s been like that for the former Fort Wayne man ever since Lapsley casually pulled a pistol and fired off about seven rounds into a crowded bar early Christmas morning.
Two of those bullets found Huddleston, who happened to be standing in the wrong place on the wrong side of the glass when Lapsley pointed his gun.
One tore through his throat, leaving a small scar on one side of his neck and another up on the right side of his chin.
The other, though, did far more damage, cutting a path through his stomach, through his bladder and into the femoral artery in his leg causing damage that is still not healed.
And it might never.
For now, Huddleston is trying to make the best of it, a left leg swollen more than two times the size of his right, riddled with blood clots and presenting a constant and painful reminder of what can happen in an instant.
Lapsley received a 78-year prison sentence Thursday, a month after a jury convicted him of two counts of aggravated battery, three counts of criminal recklessness and found him to be a habitual offender.
One of three people who came into the bar early Christmas morning, Lapsley was involved in a fight between a woman, her ex-husband and her boyfriend. When the three were kicked out of the bar, Lapsley turned around and began firing a gun into the tavern, authorities said.
And the hulking Lapsley seemed just as nonchalant and unconcerned about the practical end to his life as he was Christmas morning walking down the sidewalk under the video camera outside the Sports & Spirits bar, 1723 E. Wayne St.
As that video recording played for the jury, members of the panel seemed obviously shocked at the shooter’s callous behavior.
During his hearing Thursday, Lapsley snorted at the judge, rolled his eyes, grinned and offered nothing but a shake of the head and a “nope” when asked whether he wanted to say anything to Huddleston and Anna Roque, who lost the end of her left pinky finger to one of the bullets.
The pair didn’t have anything to say to Lapsley either, but were less than impressed with his lack of remorse.
“It is sad,” Roque said after the hearing.
Huddleston now focuses on trying to heal, not just his body but his mind, relying on family and friends to help get him through, friends like Greg Waikel, who helped change his bandages when he came home from the hospital.
But it is hard. Gone are the lengthy workweeks Huddleston put in as a welder. Now he’s lucky if he can get through a workday at the marina where he now works. He frequently relieves the swelling and pain in his legs by jumping into the dark, cold lake water.
At night, it’s hard to sleep unless he’s been drinking.
“The dreams suck,” he said. “I get shot all the time. If I go to bed sober, or watch something (on television) it’s bad.”
He weaned himself off all the pain medication and the anti-anxiety drugs prescribed for him over the last few months.
“I didn’t want to be a zombie,” he said.
On Thursday, he was to go back to the hospital for an ultrasound and dye studies of both his legs to check on the status of the blood clots. He was hoping to be admitted so he’d have a day or two off his feet.
Another stay in the hospital means more medical bills. His mother has a stack of bills several inches high and they stopped totaling up how much he owes at about $1 million.
The state’s crime victim relief fund paid all of $15,000, and Huddleston’s insurance kicked him off his plan.
He said it’s been harder, though, for his friends and family since the gunshots rang out that morning. While he has had to deal with the physical pain, watching them feel helpless at his bedside has been harder.
“I didn’t really have to deal with it,” he said. “All these people had to deal with it. I was in half a coma.”
He is grateful too for the work of the prosecutors who convinced the jury it was Lapsley on the video. And he was thankful for Allen Superior Court Judge Frances Gull, who used words like “egregious,” “extraordinary” and “horrific” to describe the events of early Christmas morning.
“It’s crazy how one person’s actions can change a person’s life so (expletive deleted) fast,” Huddleston said before he headed out of the Courthouse and off to the hospital.