Mom Who Was Shot in the Face During Robbery Forgives and Helps Free Her Assailant

January 27, 2019 Updated: January 27, 2019

It takes immense courage and tolerance, as well as a lot of effort, to be able to forgive someone who nearly killed you. One woman who was shot in the face managed to walk through this life-changing path and even helped fight for her shooter’s freedom.

Debbit Baigrie, then 28, of Tampa, Florida, was enjoying her first night out on July 27, 1990, after giving birth to her second child. While she was heading to her car to go home, she saw a group of men walking toward her—and seconds later, her life changed forever.

Bubbie Debbie and Tiny Tom on his special Baptism day!

Posted by Debbie Berkovits Baigrie on Sunday, August 16, 2015

“You got any change?” Baigrie heard someone speaking to her. “I’m serious, give it up.”

When she turned around, she found a gun pointing at her. And before she could even react, the shooter fired it off—the bullet went through her mouth.

Baigrie was taken to hospital for an emergency treatment; she survived but the shot “blew out all the bottom teeth and the gums on the lower left side” of her mouth, reported TODAY.

That tragic incident caused Baigrie to endure 40 dental procedures over the next 10 years.

As I sit here humbled, reading the beautiful comments, I have to say that, yes, I forgave Ian and continued to support…

Posted by Debbie Berkovits Baigrie on Friday, November 11, 2016

In February 1991, a 13-year-old boy named Ian Manuel confessed to the crime and was sentenced to life-without-parole.

Around the Christmas period in 1991, Manuel gathered up his courage to call Baigrie—to apologize and ask for her forgiveness.

“I was shaken by it because (the attack) was still so fresh at the time,” Baigrie told TODAY. “But he called to apologize. I found it unusual and rare, especially from somebody that young.”

Posted by Debbie Berkovits Baigrie on Thursday, July 27, 2017

However, she didn’t forgive Manuel instantly, she confessed.

“I didn’t consciously forgive him,” Baigrie told PEOPLE. “It was just over time, when I got through my trauma.”

Later, when Baigrie started receiving letters from Manuel, she decided to write back to him.

“Even though he was so young, he was thoughtful,” Baigrie said. “You could tell in his letters how thoughtful he was. They were so well written.”

Looking @ my past remembering the people who tried to do me in/My Soul saying- "Ian take the high road & don't seek…

Posted by Ian Man on Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Soon, their encounter turned into friendship, and Baigrie begun her quest for Manuel’s freedom—it was a decision that some people disapproved of.

“People would tell me, ‘You’re delusional’ and ‘You have Stockholm syndrome,’ which doesn’t even make sense,” she said.

“I figure if I didn’t help and support him, it would be a life lost,” she said. “And my life wasn’t lost, and I felt like his punishment was way beyond what it should have been.”

Posted by Ian Man on Monday, October 9, 2017

In November 2016—after 26 years—Manuel, now in his early 40s, was released from prison. When he met Baigrie, they embraced like life-long friends.

“I didn’t feel like I was hugging a stranger,” Manuel said. “Debbie’s not only like a guardian angel, she’s like a second mom.”

Now that Manuel has regained his freedom and is trying to adjust to the whole new world outside the prison bars, Baigrie hopes their story of hope and forgiveness will inspire others.

“We all make mistakes, we all try our best, and life is so short,” she said. “And if anybody knows how your life can be gone in one minute, it’s me. I understand that. We have to forgive, because it helps us heal.”

Posted by Ian Man on Thursday, October 11, 2018

Watch their touching story in the video below:

Forgiving Her Shooter

She followed her gut and answered a phone call from her attacker. Then a beautiful friendship blossomed.

Posted by Upworthy on Friday, August 24, 2018