MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The bus driver injured in a shooting on I-35W in Minnepolis earlier this year described his emotional and physical trauma since the incident at the shooter's sentencing Friday afternoon.
Thomas Benson shared his victim impact statement at Kenneth Lilly's court appearance. Lilly was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for shooting Benson during a snowy commute in February. Lilly had previously pleaded guilty to first-degree assault.
Court documents state Lilly, who at the time was a security guard, got out of his car to confront the bus driver after the bus hit his car on the highway. When Benson refused to open the bus' door, Lilly pulled out his gun and started shooting. A student was also on the bus, but was not injured. Benson, however, was hit by three bullets.
Benson says one bullet hit his left ear, leaving him completely deaf on that side. Two other bullets hit him on his left side, causing nerve damage. He said the incident continues to haunt him psychologically, leaving him afraid Lilly was going to return "to finish the job."
According to Benson's attorney, he agreed with the court's ruling. His legal team is also seeking compensation from Lilly's employer at the time, State Wide Protective Agency.
Benson's full statement is available below:
"Thank you your honor for allowing me the time to make this statement. Due to the defendant’s inability to control his emotions, I was struck by three bullets. One hit and split my left ear in half and I had to have surgery to repair it. Unfortunately, I am completely deaf in that ear as a result and now when I have problems with my hearing aid in the right ear, sometimes I can’t hear at all. This causes me to feel unbalanced at times and isolated from others.
"Another bullet tore off the tip of my left finger, traveled up by arm and lodged in my bicep. I endured another surgery to have that bullet removed and another bullet went through my left shoulder. I am left handed and these two bullets caused nerve damage which destroyed approximately 15% usage of this hand. I find myself randomly dropping things and experience numbness and tingling.
"The psychological effects are just as bad. The longest moments of my life are when I was calling the child’s name to see if she was okay and there was no answer. Two additional bullets had been fired and I couldn’t get up due to shock and pain, to check on her. My daughters and grandchildren suffered emotionally from this as well, and want to send the message to Mr. Lilly that they hope he understands his actions caused a whole family a lot of anxiety, tears, and pain.
"I used to leave my windows and curtains open but now have had periods when I am afraid to do that and for quite some time was afraid every time I had to leave my house that I would open the door and find the shooter standing there waiting to finish the job.
"I find myself being nervous that he may show up and try to harm me again.
"Mr. Lilly is lucky he is not being sentenced for homicide instead of assault.
"I will accept whatever punishment you hand down, but I implore you not to give him the minimum. Thank you for your consideration."