Man meets jailed gunman who shot him 20 years ago - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Man meets jailed gunman who shot him 20 years ago

Bates after his arrest 20 years ago. (FOX 8 Photo) Bates after his arrest 20 years ago. (FOX 8 Photo)
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

A west bank man who was left for dead in a bank robbery 20 years ago just passed a  milestone in his long recovery. Now he's suggesting that other victims walk in his footsteps.

“Did he apologize? He definitely did, several times,“ Mervin Guillory said. ”He even apologized to my family.”

Guillory emerges from Angola penitentiary after meeting with the man who shot him six times. The meeting lasted four hours and concluded the latest chapter in Guillory’s path back from the brink of death.

“I definitely wanted to let him know you changed my life to a degree you have no knowledge of,” Guillory said.

Twenty years ago, 17-year-old Robert Bates fired an Uzi into Guillory's back during a robbery of the Whitney Bank in Harvey. The bullets severed Guillory's spine, forcing him into a rehab program that took years to complete. He earned a nursing degree and got his life back in order, but something was missing.

“I just wanted to meet this guy, because I just wanted to see how was he changed,” Guillory said.

This was no random meeting. Guillory prepared for a year with help from the Crime Victims Service Bureau and a program called Victim-Offender Dialogue.

Guillory credited FOX 8's Kim Holden for telling him about the program that helps victims meet their attackers.

”He called and said, ‘I need to meet this guy,'” Gayle Cothell said.

“Even though he went through a lot, he turned a bad into good,” said Darlene Carlin.

Carlin and Bruce Galbraith were Guillory's counselors.

“I've had some victims go all the way through forgiving them and talking,” Galbraith said. “And I've had where some victims just say I hope you just rot in hell.”

“One lady wanted to know why my daughter, we were close,” Cothell said. “In that case, the offender said ‘because I liked her.’ He was stalking her.”

The process is open-ended. Victims drive everything. Offenders can't initiate anything.

“Victims want the truth,” Cothell said. “They've been through the worst. 'I’ve had victims say, ‘wow I didn't know that. That's all I need to know.'

Counselors work for up to a year or more to make sure both victim and offenders are ready for what may come.

Nothing said in the meeting can be used by an offender to get a sentence reduction.

“When he goes before the pardon board there's no record of this,” Cothell said.'

In Guillory's case, the meeting produced some surprises.

“He said he would like to apologize to my wife, and son,” Guillory said.

Guillory said Bates, the man who shot him and killed a 72-year-old woman, was young and an unwilling participant in the crime. Bates' mother was also jailed for her role in the robbery.

'I told him in dialogue, ‘you didn't want to do this.’ And he admitted ‘it's not something I wanted to do,'” Guillory said.

Bates told Guillory that he has become a productive prisoner, participating in ministries, plays, arts and crafts.

“He looks at his life currently as his life being saved,” Guillory said. “Had he not been in Angola, he would have been dead.”

Guillory said the ordeal actually brought him closer to his son while launching him on a successful new career path. Talking to Bates made him realize how strangely similar their paths have been over 20 years.

“He was working in a hospital at Angola, and I was working in the hospital,” Guillory said. “I found out we both had sons who were 20 and our lives really came to a crossroad.'

For Guillory, it was a day of discovery two decades after a near-fatal shooting left him incapacitated for years.

“I think I would like to meet him again, because I think I can be a positive influence on him,” Guillory said.

It's an experience Guillory recommends for other victims if they feel their time is right. The Victim Offender Dialogue is run through the state Department of Corrections. It has handled over 100 cases in the past 10 years, and its counselors hope more come forward to help victims and offenders get past their often torturous and life-changing ordeals. If you want to learn more, give them a call toll free, at (888) 342-6110.

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