Parents often say they'd do anything for their children, even take a bullet. Few ever have to face such danger, but when bullets started flying inside a car dealership in the Bronx Monday night, one father did exactly that.
Anthony Jefferson and his three young children were at On The Road Auto Group in Eastchester just before 7:30 p.m., as Jefferson was looking to buy a car for his wife.
"I was trying to surprise my wife for her birthday," Jefferson said.
But he and the kids were the ones in for a surprise, and not a welcome one. A man in a dark hooded sweatshirt walked by the glass door, pulled out a gun and opened fire, harrowing video shows.
As the bullets pierce the glass, debris falls all over the showroom floor. While others ran for their lives, Jefferson hit the floor and shielded his children with his body — putting himself between them and the danger.
"What went through my mind? Get my kids and get low, to safety," Jefferson told NBC New York in a phone interview. The 39-year-old is still in pain and recovering after taking a shot to the thigh during the incident, with the bullet still lodged inside his body.
The close call was can be seen in a photo, as bullets ricocheted off the father's boot just inches away from the children. But even during the chaos, Jefferson never lost sight of his goal: keeping his kids safe.
"It started burning tremendously. I wanted to scream but I couldn't because I had my kids there," Jefferson said.
His youngest sons, only 2 years old, are still struggling with the senseless violence.
"They're traumatized. My 2-year-old gets up in the middle of the night screaming," said Jefferson. "It's heartbreaking."
The NYPD said three gunmen were targeting someone doing business inside the Eastchester dealership. Immediately following the shooting, police said two of the shooters ran off, while the third carjacked a customer and sped away.
The crime hasn't jus taken a physical and emotional toll, but Jefferson said it will hurt the family financially as well. The pandemic had already impacted his construction work, and now the injury means he has to stay off his feet while he recovers.
The community and others are rallying around the family, with a GoFundMe page already set up to help raise funds for mounting hospital bills and lost wages.
"I truly want to thank everyone for their well wishes and get well soon and praise for my family. I appreciate that from the bottom of my heart," Jefferson said.
Those who know him best said the incident is just one example of how good a person and father Jefferson is, but he won't call himself a hero. He says he did what anyone would've: try and keep people safe.
"I was just being a father," Jefferson said. "If my arms would have stretched to everyone, I would have made sure I would have gotten them to safety."
The dedicated dad hopes to have surgery to remove the bullet soon, but said he's most looking forward to getting back to work to continue take care of his family.