'It almost killed me': San Jose teen suffers collapsed lung after pellet gun shooting attack

The incident caused internal bleeding and a collapsed lung where she was sent to a pediatric ICU for care

Amanda del Castillo Image
Tuesday, June 14, 2022
SJ teen suffers collapsed lung after pellet gun shooting attack
A San Jose teen is back home from the pediatric ICU Monday after being shot with a pellet gun near Valley Fair Mall on Friday.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A San Jose teen is back home Monday, recovering after being shot with a pellet gun on Friday.

The incident caused internal bleeding and a collapsed lung, and sent the teen to a pediatric ICU for care.

ABC7 News connected with Gianna Vitarelli, 15, after she returned home.

"It almost killed me," she said. "The bullet was an inch away from my heart. And it can cause real damage with real consequences, and I just want people to be aware of that."

Vitarelli understands things could've been much worse for her and admits she's still in shock after being randomly shot with a pellet gun.

The San Jose teen and a friend were walking to a home near Valley Fair Mall on Friday. The two reached Monroe Street and Homewood Drive, when someone shot Vitarelli from behind.

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"I was super confused because both of us had heard a loud 'thwack' noise, and I kinda turned around like, 'Oh, what was that? That was weird,'" she described. "And then I saw a car speeding away."

She started to feel pain and even shortness of breath, when her friend checked Vitarelli's back and noticed blood coming from a small hole.

Vitarelli was eventually rushed to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center late Friday.

"I got shot, I went to Kaiser, then I was rushed over to Valley Med, and I got the operation," she described of Friday's events. "It was a lot of stuff to process."

She spent time in the pediatric ICU and was discharged days later with the pellet still inside her. It's where she's told the pellet will remain.

"They're not gonna take it out. So, it's just gonna stay in my lungs," Vitarelli told ABC7 News. "It's too dangerous of a surgery. They said that the bullet is in soft tissue and that it's either just gonna stay there for the rest of my life, or it's just going to like, push it's way out."

The teen and her friends wonder if the crime is connected to a viral TikTok challenge, which encourages people to fire gel balls - or Orbeez - at unsuspecting victims.

VIDEO: South Bay teen arrested for shooting gel balls at pedestrians; PD says part of social media trend

Morgan Hill Police arrested a 17-year-old after they say he shot gel balls at random pedestrians it what's possibly part of a TikTok challenge.

However, Vitarelli describes her case as a way more extreme version.

"It was not an Orbee," she assured. "They did an x-ray. It's real metal that entered my body and collapsed my lung."

Adding to her concern, Vitarelli said responding officers shared there were other victims of pellet attacks in the area on Friday.

San Jose Police confirms it's investigating two additional pellet gun attacks from that afternoon.

SJPD said a 42-year-old woman was shot in a Walmart parking lot along Stevens Creek Blvd, and a 9-year-old girl was shot in the back near the Westgate Mall.

Police are still trying to determine if the three incidents are connected.

According to SJPD, it is a crime that could potentially be charged as an assault with a deadly weapon- a felony in the State of California.

"I don't know if I have any advice, because I feel very helpless," Vitarelli told ABC7 News. "I don't know how you would protect yourself against a car driving by, in a very safe neighborhood."

SJPD says there is no suspect information available yet.