Sixers' Iverson to pay for funeral of gunshot victim
SEATTLE -- Allen Iverson will pay for the funeral of a man who died three years after he was shot in southwest Philadelphia because he refused to hand over his Iverson jersey to a group of teens.
Iverson says he's tired of reading about murders in Philadelphia and wanted to do something.
"I don't think one guy can do what needs to be done, but I think one guy can help," Iverson said before Wednesday night's game in Seattle. "I think it's going to take a collective effort. and there is a lot of good people trying to help the situation in Philadelphia."
Kevin Johnson died Tuesday morning after his family chose to take him off life support. He was 22.
On June 24, 2003, a group of teens approached Johnson while he was waiting for a trolley and demanded he give up the Iverson jersey he was wearing. When he refused, Johnson was shot in the back of the neck by Robert Ferguson, who is serving a prison sentence on attempted murder charges.
The shooting left Johnson paralyzed, in a wheelchair and eventually on a ventilator. Last week, the ventilator failed, and Johnson suffered irreparable brain damage. The family chose to take him off it.
"It was time for Kevin to go home," Johnson's mother, Janice Jackson-Burke told the Philadelphia Daily News.
Johnson's funeral is set for next Wednesday, with the expenses covered by Iverson.
The seven-time All-Star contacted the hospital and spoke with Jackson-Burke. She told Iverson how much her son adored Iverson's play and how much he loved the Sixers.
"If they were that serious about that jersey, I would have given them 100 jerseys if they wanted it," Iverson said. "It was just tough, just to see somebody die for something senseless like that, over a jersey, over something material."
After he was left a quadriplegic, Johnson and his mother spoke at schools and rallies in the Philadelphia area about staying away from guns. He'll be buried in an Iverson jersey.
The family asked Iverson to attend the service, but the Sixers play that night in Milwaukee. Iverson said he talked to the family about not wanting to disrespect them, or for them to believe his offer was simply for publicity.
"I felt like I have got to do something more than what I have been doing to help this situation as much as I can," Iverson said. "If I can reach one person and take one death away, I think I can do something."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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