Plano man shot in Sandwich was sticking up for girlfriend, sister says

Online fundraising effort underway to help cover his medical expenses

SANDWICH – A Plano man was defending his girlfriend before he was shot in the head early Sunday, the victim's sister said.

Abbey Blum, sister of shooting victim Eric Peterson, 23, said Peterson and his girlfriend were guests at a housewarming party Saturday evening in the 1100 block of Lillian Lane. At some point during the evening, a neighbor came over to the party and was harassing Peterson's girlfriend, Blum said. Peterson defended her, and the man left, but came back with a gun, Blum said.

"He was banging on the door for them to come out," Blum said. "And Eric was the first one to walk out, and he shot him in their driveway."

The shooting occurred around 12:30 a.m. Sunday, with the bullet that hit Peterson ending up lodged in the side of a neighbor's home.

Carl Russell, 44, of 1131 Lillian Lane, is charged with attempted murder, aggravated battery with a firearm and aggravated discharge of a firearm in connection with the shooting. He's in the DeKalb County Jail, where his bond was set at $750,000 Monday. If convicted of the most serious charge, attempted murder, he could face life in prison.

As First Assistant State's Attorney Stephanie Klein told the court the details of Peterson's condition, and that he'd likely be paralyzed for life, Russell, his brow furrowed as he listened, rocked forward and back in his chair.

Russell, who appeared in court via closed-circuit TV, said he's worked at Midwest Manufacturing in Plano for 11 years. According to court records, he's single and doesn't have kids. Taking all those factors into account, Judge Marcy Buick denied him a public defender. Russell said he didn't have the money to hire a lawyer, let alone post $75,000 to be released. If he comes up with the money, he'll be ordered to have no contact with Peterson and his family.

Peterson and his girlfriend have a 7-month-old daughter together, Blum said.

Blum has started a fundraising effort to help cover the costs of her brother's medical care. He has suffered debilitating injuries that will affect him for life, she said.

"The bullet passed through his eye, his brain, and out the back of his head," Blum wrote on the fundraising page.

"Eric will need an artificial skull for the right side of his skull, he is having his right eye removed, his whole left side of his body will be paralyzed. He will need physical therapy down the road, probably a wheelchair and other medical equipment and care."

Blum said Peterson, who is being treated at a Rockford hospital, is stable but still in critical condition. Blum said he is on a ventilator and will be undergoing more tests.

"He's better than he was yesterday morning," Blum said. "When we got here yesterday morning, they were asking us if he was an organ donor, like he wasn't going to make it. But now he's in decent condition, compared to what he was yesterday."

Peterson is a graduate of Minooka High School but attended Plano High School and has lived in Plano for much of his life, Blum said. He worked in the landscaping business, she said.

Blum described Peterson as a family-oriented, friendly man.

"He's just the most family-oriented person I've ever met," she said. "He's an amazing person. Anyone who knows him knows that he's all about his friends, he's all about his family. He's there if you need him. He will give the shirt on his back to you if you need it. That's the kind of person my brother is."

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