Chattanooga Police and doctors seeing an increase in child shootings

An 8-year-old boy is still in critical condition after being caught in the middle of gunfire Thursday night. (Image: WTVC)

An 8-year-old boy is still in critical condition after being caught in the middle of gunfire Thursday night.

Police and surgeons say it's becoming more common for kids to show up at a hospital with a gunshot wound, and almost every time - they're not even the intended target.

Mostly, they're just caught up in a lifestyle associated with gun violence.

Devastating is really the only word Pediatric Surgeon Dr. Dave Bhattacharya can use to describe what he sees at work.

"I just think this is becoming more and more prevalent," he said.

And he's right.

"Just per capita, the number of gunshot wounds under the age of 15-years-old in Chattanooga alone is striking," Bhattacharya said.

According to Chattanooga police, from January 2013 to December 2016, 70 children suffered from a gunshot.

Only three of these shootings were accidental, and this doesn't include that 8-year-old boy.

"Nothing pisses off cops like bad guys who harm children," said Chief Fred Fletcher in a news conference.

Police say the little boy from Thursday night was riding in the car with his mom when he got hit by a bullet.

"This will definitely be one that I'll remember for a long time. Probably never forget," Bhattacharya said.

Something he says is never easy for him to process.

"This is what you're trained to do, but I don't know that anyone's every trained to deal with an 8-year-old who has been shot," he added.

A lot of times it leaves him and his co-workers questioning who would do this.

Dr. Bhattacharya often tries to seek guidance from other surgeons with more experience than him.

He says just this weekend he asked one question in particular.

"When does this get better or how can you move forward," he asked? "And, he says, 'you never move forward.' They're just notches that keep on you."

Now, he's figuring out ways he can help this, and hopefully put an end to the violence.

He's meeting with police officers and health officials to create a plan.

They've talked about maybe going door-to-door and checking homes for guns, but one thing they all know for sure - shooting violence has become a public health hazard.

"When you have a child who's been devastated by a single gunshot wound, it's really, really hard to say that this is okay," Bhattacharya said.

Bhattacharya says the 8-year-old boy had another operation Monday.

He's still in the ICU and on a ventilator, but he should make a full recovery.

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