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Shooting victim speaks out after her assailant's suspended sentence

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 02. 2015 11:35PM
Josephine Otim speaks about the outcome from court on Tuesday whem Thomas Landry was given probation for shooting Josephine, from her living room in Manchester on Wednesday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER -- The Manchester victim of a random shooting 2 1/2 years ago said she cried most of Wednesday, the day after her shooter — a combat Marine veteran — avoided a prison sentence and walked out of a Manchester courthouse.

“Tom Landry put me through this. There is no justice for me,” said Josephine Otim, who Landry shot in the leg in 2013.

On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson ordered Landry, 27, onto probation and suspended an 11-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to the shooting. Abramson said she doubted state prison could provide the treatment Landry needed for the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) related to his service in Afghanistan.

Otim spoke Wednesday from her third-floor apartment, which overlooks the Somerville Street intersection where Landry shot her when the car she was in stopped to let him cross the street.

“He saw two women sitting in a car. We begged him, ‘Please don’t shoot.’ He shot,” Otim said.

Otim wonders whether race — she is an African refugee from South Sudan, Landry is white and New Hampshire-born — had an impact on the verdict.

“If I were a white woman and he were a black male, this would have been different,” Otim said.

Landry will be on probation for five years. He is expected to live in Massachusetts and be under the care of a clinical psychologist who eschews medication and uses alternative treatments such as hypnosis, yoga and meditation to cure PTSD.

He must participate in counseling and remain drug- and alcohol-free. He has to perform 500 hours of community service and must write apologies to Otim and her friend, Shaquwan’da Allen, who was driving Otim’s car the night of the shooting.

Otim said she would have been satisfied if Landry were imprisoned for a year. Otim said she wouldn’t even want prison for Landry if he had admitted to the shooting that night.

“We all know people who break rules. If you are going to break rules, you need to take responsibility for it,” Otim said.

Landry had been drinking with his girlfriend at a neighborhood bar. He carried a holstered, concealed handgun. At home were more than two dozen prescription bottles with his name on them. After the shooting, he hid the gun and denied shooting anyone.

Otim started to experience PTSD within the past eight months, she said. She finds it hard to trust others. She cries often. One night, she awoke to find herself choking Allen, her roommate. Otim was hospitalized at Elliot Hospital for a week afterward.

“I have PTSD, but I don’t use it to hurt somebody else. I researched what I had and got help,” Otim said. She contrasts that with Landry, who ignored his PTSD, carried a gun, drank and smoked marijuana.

Twenty to 30 percent of combat veterans have PTSD or traumatic brain injury, said Peter Burdett, vice chairman of the State Veterans Advisory Committee.

But a 2013 survey of New Hampshire veterans found that 46 percent of veterans don’t get the mental health care they need. Burdett, a retired Navy commander, questioned what good it would do to send Landry to prison.

“Is it his fault? Probably not in a PT situation,” Burdett said.

Otim underwent two surgeries and still walks with a limp. She said her injury hurts on cold days. The New Hampshire Victim Assistance Fund paid her medical bills and lost wages, but she can no longer work double shifts, which she relied on to pay bills.

She said her 10-year-old son has reassured her at times that he will protect her and she will not be shot. She fears driving at night and is wary of pedestrians.

“I live with PTSD every day. My challenge is how to be normal,” she said.

Otim said she moved to the United States when she was 13. As a young child, she remembers running from her house most nights as enemy soldiers approached her town. Her family moved often to escape war, and she remembers mortars going over her head.

She became a U.S. citizen just days before Landry shot her.

“Even if you become a citizen,” Otim said, “you still feel like a refugee. All your life, you’re fighting for freedom.”

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