Highland Park shooting: Paralyzed 8-year-old back in critical condition, completes 7th surgery

Cooper Roberts was shot and suffered a severed spinal cord, among other injuries, after a gunman opened fire on the July 4 parade.

ByEric Horng and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team via WLS logo
Tuesday, July 12, 2022
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8-year-old Cooper Roberts, paralyzed in the Highland Park mass shooting, is back in critical condition and underwent a 7th surgery, his family said

ZION, Ill. (WLS) -- An 8-year-old boy paralyzed in the Highland Park mass shooting is back in critical condition and successfully underwent another surgery, a family spokesperson said.

Cooper Roberts was shot and suffered a severed spinal cord, among other injuries, after a gunman opened fire on the July 4 parade. Seven people were killed and more than 30 others were injured. The young boy is now paralyzed from the waist down.

Cooper was spiking a fever and had an elevated heart rate due to a new infection, which is being treated with medication, spokesperson Anthony Loizzi said Tuesday, adding that doctors shared that one of the boy's lungs is partially collapsed.

He also had a procedure Monday to address damage to his esophagus, Anthony said. The esophagram procedure revealed that the tear in Cooper's esophagus reopened. As a result, he underwent an urgent, complex, and lengthy surgery Tuesday to again attempt to repair his torn esophagus.

The doctors were able to find and close the leak during Cooper's seventh surgery on Tuesday, Anthony said.

"This is a good outcome - Cooper is still fighting! His condition is being closely monitored and the next days will be critical to ensure that he responds positively." the boy's family said through their spokesperson.

"I hope, and I think everyone here is hoping and praying, that he will have the best possible outcome, but it's a long road ahead," said Dr. Ana Velez-Rosborough, trauma surgeon at NorthShore University HeatlhSystem.

Velez-Rosborough led the team of half a dozen surgeons that saved Cooper's life in those first critical hours after the shooting.

"We did have to operate on both his abdomen and his chest because of the location in order to stop the bleeding from the aorta, which is the main blood vessel that feeds the body from the heart," she said.

Once his condition was stabilized, he was transferred to Comer Children's Hospital.

"That little kid, he is a trooper," Velez-Rosborough said.

She said before July 4 she had treated adults, but no one as young as Cooper Roberts, for injuries from the type of high-powered rifle allegedly used in the shooting.

"In my opinion, as a healthcare provider and a surgeon and a person who sees these injuries, they have absolutely no place in the civilian world," she said.

Cooper's twin brother, Luke, as well as his mother, Zion Elementary School District 6 Superintendent Dr. Keely Roberts, were also shot during the attack, family said.

RELATED: Dr. Keely Roberts, Zion school superintendent, twin sons among those shot at Highland Park parade

Friday, his family said Cooper is now conscious and has been removed from a ventilator after not being able to breathe on his own.

"At this point his critical, life-threatening injuries had been addressed and he was stable enough to be transferred to University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital for continued care," doctors said.

Luke has been treated for shrapnel wounds to a leg, was released from the hospital and is recuperating at home with his older sisters, who were not at the parade and uninjured.

Dr. Roberts was shot twice in the leg and foot. She underwent two surgeries, and, after she learned of Cooper's condition, told doctors to discharge her or said she would walk out on her own.

Friends of the family have started a GoFundMe campaign to support medical needs.

"Cooper continues to fight as hard as he can," the GoFundMe page says.

A family spokesman said Cooper loves sports, especially baseball, and is a huge Milwaukee Brewers fan.

Over $1.192 million has been raised for the family as of Sunday evening.

At least 39 people were injured after police said a shooter opened fire on the parade from a rooftop.

The Zion District 6 Board president said active and retired superintendents from throughout the region have offered to help with short-term interim administrative assistance as the district determines the next best steps as Dr. Roberts and her family take the time they need to heal.

"For seven years in Zion District 6 and other area school districts for many years prior, Dr. Roberts has done everything she can to support the needs of students and families in our community. Now, she and her family need our help and support," she said in a statement. "Please continue to keep the Roberts Family and all those impacted by this tragedy in your thoughts."

Moving forward, the family will provide biweekly updates on Cooper's status on Tuesdays and Fridays, Anthony said.

Sun-Times Media contributed to this report.