As a Burlingame man shot at a Halloween party in San Francisco recovers from his severe injuries, his friends and family are mobilizing to raise thousands of dollars for his ongoing care and ensure the court hearings for his alleged attacker are well-stocked with those who came so close to losing him.
Benjamin Pessah, 21, is hospitalized and improving every day but the medical bills continue racking up and the emotional scars are far from healed.
"We’re asking for a lot of prayers,” said Pessah’s cousin, Alex.
Alex Pessah created a fundraising site to collect donations for his medical care and, as of Friday afternoon, had already amassed more than $18,000. But with Ben Pessah in a medically induced coma and reduced oxygen levels not to mention lots of rehabilitation eventually, cousin Jason Sutherland said the bills easily surpass that amount.
Pessah has been hospitalized since the Oct. 28 shooting at Fort Mason that reportedly happened after a San Leandro man grabbed his girlfriend inappropriately. Police reported the man, Hun Saelee, 30, tried to start a fight before grabbing a gun out of his car trunk and shooting Pessah in the head as he ran away with 26-year-old Judiana Lau.
Police arrested Saelee at home wearing the same camouflage-style clothing as the night before and with a handgun possibly used in the shooting on the floorboard of his car. He is charged with attempted murder and Lau is charged with being an accessory after the fact.
Police remain looking for witnesses or video of the incident.
Meanwhile, Pessah’s family and friends are making a point to attend each court hearing en masse. One appearance drew 130 people, Sutherland said.
"I personally think it’s critical to not only let the judge know but also the assailants that this is not to be taken lightly,” Sutherland said.
Alex Pessah agreed.
"We want to show the judge and jury that he didn’t just affect one person. He affected hundreds,” Pessah said.
A family has donated T-shirts to the cause which will read "Team Ben,” he said.
Ben’s support system starts with his parents and four brothers but the extended family includes 17 cousins — and that’s just on one side.
Sutherland said his first cousin is "the sweetest of four competitive boys” and Alex Pessah said his most distinctive feature is his laugh which is often heard because he’s always cracking jokes.
Pessah, a Burlingame native, is a College of San Mateo student and running a business staging homes for real estate, Sutherland said.
Ben Pessah is the type of man who "stands up for people” and "is always willing to put himself on the line for other people,” Alex Pessah said.
Now, the cousins say they and Ben’s other supporters are hoping the community continues stepping up to help him this time. They are also looking forward to Pessah’s eventual return home.
"I told him when you’re ready to celebrate we’ll be ready, too,” Sutherland said.
How to help: Donations can be made for Ben Pessah at www.gofundme.com/1f0bb0
Michelle Durand can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.