One second, Daniel Flowers had dreams of going into college football and the next he was lying on the sidewalk, a bullet fragment in his neck, never to get up again.
Flowers, 24, of Freeport, died a quadriplegic on Jan. 2 from complications of his injuries — more than four years after someone fired into a group of people in Hempstead Village.
Now, Nassau police and his family want the public’s help in finding his killer.
“I had to bury him on his 25th birthday,” his aunt Gerry Flowers said as she cried. She raised Flowers and his younger brother Aaron. “He had so many friends. There was no gang stuff. Danny hung around everybody. He was a good kid.”
On July 3, 2011, the Nassau Community College student and about 10 friends had just left a birthday party to go to Seduccion Bar, a strip joint on Main Street, but they weren’t old enough to get in, Flowers said.
They were gathered across from the bar when a drunk man came out of the strip club and started firing, she said her nephew’s friends told her. Flowers said the friends told her that when nearby residents came out, they shouted the shooter’s street name.
Police said the shots were fired near the bar at Main Street and Sammis Place and that the shooter got into a vehicle and drove off.
Daniel Flowers, a church choir singer and a “born” athlete whose basketball, baseball and football awards decked the walls of his room, never returned home.
After six months at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, he spent his remaining days at the A. Holly Patterson nursing facility in Uniondale. It was where he started talking again, where he moved a hand and felt sensation in his feet, one year after the shooting, his family said.
He didn’t remember the shooting and was angry for more than a year, asking why God was “punishing” him, his aunt said.
“When all you knew was moving, jumping, tackling and swinging the bat — he used to be an ace pitcher, he used to tear the mound up — when you lose those abilities . . . he needed to know why him,” she said.
When he could do more than move his lips to sound out words, it was the Lord’s Prayer that came out in a whisper, and in time, he grew to be “OK” with his condition, his aunt said.
Many times when she walked into his room, Flowers said, Daniel already had tears on his face that he couldn’t wipe off, so she did it for him.
He couldn’t wipe away his aunt’s tears either but would say frequently, “Don’t cry. I’ll be all right. Thank you, Aunt Gerry.”
His friends and family visited regularly, and Flowers said she reminded the center’s staff to turn on the television whenever there was a sports game so Daniel could watch. She’d rush over sometimes to make sure the television was on.
To bolster his hopes for a recovery, his family supersized a photo of him kneeling on the football field in his Red Devils uniform as a student at Freeport High School, where he got the coaches’ award one year, a sort of MVP award, the one Daniel prized most.
But toward the end, fluids kept building up in his lungs, his family said.
“He was tired,” his aunt said.
Daniel’s brother Aaron, 20, lost the man who had looked after him like a father and the family lost a peacemaker, said Candyce Franklin, 24, the brothers’ cousin and Flowers’ daughter. She said her cousin Daniel was never angry for long and made others kick off their angry moods with a smile, a funny face or a joke.
“He was kind of like our go-to guy,” Franklin said. “If something went wrong or if we were about to get into trouble, we would kind of use him to smooth things over.”
Daniel Flowers’ relatives said they were so consumed over the years by his health that no one dwelled much on justice.
Now, they can press for the shooter to come forward.
“What he did to my Danny I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy,” his aunt said. “May God have mercy on his soul. He should turn himself in.”
Homicide detectives said anyone with information could call them at 516-573-7788 or Crime Stoppers at 800-244-8477.