WASHINGTON (WJLA) - A man in a Santa Claus suit who has been identified as Xavier Hawkins was shot in the back with a pellet gun Tuesday morning during a toy giveaway in a part of Southeast Washington plagued by crime.
The video is disturbing. The man dressed as Santa has led the annual Barry Farm gift giveaway for the last seven years, and according to an ABC7 photographer who was interviewing the victim at the time of the shooting, the he was struck in his upper back then transported to a nearby hospital with the pellet still lodged in his shoulder.
Later on Tuesday, we saw Xavier Hawkins again after he was released from the hospital. He showed us the tear in his Santa suit as well as the scene of the depraved crime:
"Oh, here's the hole. That's where I got shot -- right there."
In the video, you can hear Hawkins' booming voice faltering after being hit. It was an act of violence appalling on more levels than we can fathom.
"It's sad news, but I'm not surprised with what's going on around here," said SE resident Tasharn Richardson.
We caught up with Hawkins while he picked up his favorite Christmas Day meal at a local market.
“I felt the burning," he described of the feeling he got when shot.
It pains Hawkins to know that a man bearing gifts for a community would become the victim of violence. But he still sees the positive:
"Thank God I'm living and it's not a real gun ...I'm very grateful that no one else got hit -- especially the kids."
Even without his suit, Hawkins embodies the spirit of Christmas – gracious and grateful. He is heading home to be with his children and to celebrate what he hopes will be a quiet Christmas.
Witnesses at the scene report hearing two shots. Police believe they came from a second story window in a nearby building. The one pellet struck Santa as he walked through a crowd that included children.
“We could hear it coming out the window -- muffled, boom -- they didn't get hit. I'm glad I got hit and no one else got hurt," said the man in the Santa suit.
"Not on Christmas! Don't shoot Santa, that's bad," said witness J.D. Brown.
Even as paramedics treated his wounds, "Santa" stayed remarkably festive – in fact, he wanted to stay and give out gifts, but medics said no.
So this year, a D.C. ambulance replaced the sleigh in Southeast.
"It''s all good, it's not going to stop the show," said Hawkins.
At least -- not with the families of 600 children waiting for 1,800 donated toys. Thanks to the Grinch, Christmas was saved at Barry Farm.
"This year, I decided to give back. My heart grew three times," said the man dressed up as the famous Christmas antihero.