18-Year-Old Texas Cheerleader, Payton Washington, Speaks Out Two Months After Getting Shot While Accidentally Trying to Get Into the Wrong Car

Less than two months ago, Payton Washington – an 18-year-old cheerleader from Texas – was fighting for her life after suffering three gunshot wounds to her back and leg. She was sitting in her vehicle in a grocery store parking lot when 25-year-old Pedro Tello Rodriguez Jr. opened fire on her and her friends. 

On Friday (June 2), Payton sat down with Michael Strahan for an interview on Good Morning America – her first public interview since the incident. She talked about the scary scene that unfolded after midnight on April 18, when her friend accidentally opened the door to someone else’s car – thinking it was hers. 

Her friend, Heather Roth, saw a man sitting in the passenger seat and quickly realized it was the wrong vehicle before rushing back to her friend’s car. When she saw the man walk towards her friend’s car, she tried to roll down the window to apologize, but that’s when he started shooting – both girls were struck. 

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Payton Washington was eating Twizzlers and texting on her phone before the man started shooting. Out of instinct, she turned her body with her blanket and attempted to guard herself – though she admitted to not knowing where the shooting was coming from. She did, however, know she had to do something. 

“We were tryin’ to get away. I really was just telling myself to breathe. It was hard to breathe because of my diaphragm,” she said of her escape – the suspect continued shooting as they drove off. “I was trying to stay as calm as possible for the other people in the car. I could tell how sad and scared they were.”

It wasn’t until she noticed blood on her seat that she put two and two together – she had been shot. She didn’t know where she was shot, but she knew she was functioning off pure adrenaline at that point. By the time they pulled the vehicle over, Payton was coughing and throwing up blood – she needed help. 

“My spleen was shattered. My stomach had two holes in it. And my diaphragm had two holes in it. And then they had to remove a lobe from my pancreas. I had 32 staples,” she said of her injuries. She was ultimately airlifted to a nearby hospital, where she was in critical condition as they began surgery. 

Payton Washington Isn’t Trying to Think About the Suspect

Payton Washington endured a large amount of emotional and physical stress as a result of the incident, but she’s looking forward to putting it behind her and moving forward with life. “He did what he did, and I’m just gonna try and get through it. There’s no point in me really thinking about what he did,” she said.

And she certainly didn’t waste any amount of time getting back into the swing of things. Washington ended up graduating from high school five weeks after the incident took place, though she admitted it wasn’t easy getting to that point. According to her, it was post-surgery that took the biggest toll on her.

“It was hard … hurting to walk or stand is really weird when, a week before, you were doing a bunch of flips, running the track, and doing long jump, and all this stuff,” she added – referring to her talents as an athlete. Nonetheless, she’s using her story to help inspire others to achieve their goals and dreams. 

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“You can literally do anything if you push and you persevere. Don’t doubt yourself ever because you can do anything as long as you’re putting your 120% into it,” she continued. Payton Washington will be attending Baylor University – where she was supposed to join their acrobatics and tumbling program.

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