3-year-old's mom to shooter: 'I have to forgive you'

Exel Taylor gives a statement before his sentencing before Judge Ulysses Boykin Thursday in Detroit.  Taylor was sentenced for the shooting of then-3-year-old London Muldrow outside a gas station on Detroit's west side.

A Detroit man was sentenced Thursday to 17-32 years in prison for shooting a 3-year-old in the head while firing at another person at a west-side gas station.

Exel Taylor, 24, was given the sentence by Judge Ulysses Boykin during a hearing in Wayne County Circuit Court.

London Mulgrow, now 4, was left with a bullet in her brain after getting shot during an argument between Taylor and another man April 7. The girl's mother, Laurice Henderson, had just pulled up to the station at Livernois and Warren when the gunfire began.

Laurice Henderson, the mother of shooting victim London Muldrow, now age 4, weeps as she gives a victim's impact statement before the sentencing of Exel Taylor Thursday in Detroit.

London was sitting in the back seat of the vehicle when a bullet tore through the windshield and struck her. The mother and the child were caught in the crossfire. The man Taylor was shooting at took cover behind the mother’s car.

Henderson broke down and had to leave the courtroom while giving her victim impact statement about how the shooting has affected her only child, herself and her family.

But she told Taylor, "I have to forgive you in order to be there for my daughter's healing. Mr. Taylor, I do forgive you 'cause I know the actions that you made you didn't mean to harm my child but you did."

 Henderson added, "You have to suffer the consequences," saying Taylor hurt her and that the shooting has left her and London with lingering mental and physical scars and a deep sense of fear.

"I'm afraid to go to gas stations," Henderson said. "I'm scared to be out late at night with my kid. You hurt me in so many ways. I have to excuse you in order to assure my daughter she's going to be OK."

Henderson said her young daughter, now 4, asks her, "Why did I (have) these scars?"

The child spent 28 days in the hospital and underwent two surgeries. London doesn't know what happened to her, says her mother.

"I'm the one who's traumatized. Not her, 'cause she don't know," Henderson said.

"I hope today in going forward that you will just try to grow as a person ... grow as a man," she told Taylor. "Not only did you hurt my family, you hurt your family, too. (Taylor's mom) is hurting just like I'm hurting because we both wound up in this situation just because you (weren't) thinking."

Laurice Henderson, left, the mother of  shooting victim London Muldrow, is comforted by Patrice Kelly, London's grandmother, as they await the sentencing of Exel Taylor Thursday  in Detroit.

Taylor, a father of four, said he didn't mean for the girl to get hurt.

"I'm very sorry. I'm so sorry," he said. "It was a mistake. I did not know she was there. I'm not a violent person. I pray every night. I can't sleep at night. It could have been my daughter. At the same time, I was scared for my life."

But the judge said his culpability was "not diminished" because "you intended to shoot somebody."

Boykin told Taylor the hardship he brought on the child and her mother "cannot be measured."

"People want to resolve their differences that resort to gunfire regardless of who else is around," Boykin said. "Unfortunately in this situation, a very young child was seriously wounded. I understand that she is recovering but there are limitations that go along with that and hardship."

Taylor's defense attorney, Kareem Johnson, pleaded with Boykin to give his client a lower sentence.

"There have been several cases this year in which individuals who actually killed people in Wayne County who have actually gotten the same or less time," Johnson said. "We ask the court to reconsider. (Taylor) has no prior criminal history. He is  a young man (and) his rehabilitative qualities are very extremely high."

Taylor was charged with with three counts of assault with intent to commit murder, carrying a concealed weapon, carrying a weapon with unlawful intent and four counts of felony firearms. Two of the lesser charges, both weapons violations, were dismissed.

Exel pleaded guilty Aug. 24, the day his bench trial was to begin.

Judge Ulysses Boykin sentences Exel Taylor to 17-32 years in prison Thursday in Detroit. Taylor was trading shots at a Detroit gas station when one of the bullets struck a 3-year-old girl, London Muldrow.