Dr. John Trujillo didn’t feel the buckshot shatter his right leg.
When his younger brother, Bobby Trujillo, whom he’d fired after more than 20 years as a veterinary technician at Pickles Light Street Animal Hospital and moved to evict from a third-floor apartment above the medical facility, shot him with a 12-gauge shotgun, he said, he must have been in shock.
The head veterinary technician, Cathy Thorpe, was in the room with him on Aug. 29, 2022. She applied a tourniquet that he credits for saving his life. Thorpe told Bobby Trujillo, using colorful language, to leave before she beat him up.
“I’m on the floor, and I’m like, ‘Oh, God. Leave him alone,’” John Trujillo recalled in a recent interview with The Baltimore Banner. “He’s going to kill you and me both.”
But instead, Bobby Trujillo left and went back upstairs. Baltimore Police arrested him after a standoff that caused nearby Thomas Johnson Elementary/Middle School to go into lockdown on the first day of classes.
More than one year after the shooting, John Trujillo, 67, of Harford County, is continuing to recover. He said he’s undergone eight surgeries and 10 blood transfusions. As a marathon runner, he’s set a goal of participating in the Baltimore Running Festival in 2024.
“There’s a lot of support,” he said, “that I got from people.”
Growing up on a 15,000-acre ranch in Raton, New Mexico, John Trujillo said his path to becoming a veterinarian started when he would try to save various animals that got hurt on the property. He initially considered becoming a certified public accountant but applied to veterinary school, graduating in 1984 from Tufts University.
He said he returned to New Mexico for four months and then went to Missouri for two months. People had difficulty pronouncing his last name — he said he’s been mistaken for being Italian, Greek and Middle Eastern — so they started calling him “Dr. John” or “Dr. T.”
More than 20 years ago, John Trujillo founded what’s now called Pickles Light Street Animal Hospital, on Light and East Randall streets in Riverside, and built the business up after starting with zero clients.
On the anniversary of the shooting, Bobby Trujillo, 63, of Riverside, pleaded guilty in Baltimore Circuit Court to two counts of first-degree assault as well as one count of use of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence and illegally discharging a firearm within the City of Baltimore. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison, with all but 30 years suspended, plus five years’ probation.
The first five years of his sentence must be served without the possibility of parole.
During the court proceedings, Assistant State’s Attorney Ashley Simmons said prosecutors found statements that Bobby Trujillo made to John Trujillo “very callous and calculated.” They included the following remark: “You going to cripple me, I’ll cripple you.”
“The state believes this is a very appropriate sentence given the facts,” Simmons said.
Meanwhile, Assistant Public Defender Matthew Connell, Bobby Trujillo’s attorney, said he felt that mental health issues played a role in the crime.
Bobby Trujillo, he said, believed that he had been wrongfully terminated and was being thrown onto the streets. He went downstairs that morning to ask for severance pay.
“There seems to be a high level of conflict,” said Connell, who added that the punishment might effectively be a life sentence for his client. “It ended in this tragic event.”
When Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams gave Bobby Trujillo the opportunity to speak, he gave a more than 10-minute rambling statement and leveled various accusations at his older brother.
When the paramedics arrived after the shooting, John Trujillo said, he told them, “If you need to take my leg, take it. Just save my life.” He said he reiterated that point to his orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Mark Gage, who managed to save the limb.
Today, John Trujillo is still wearing a medical device called an external fixator on his right leg. He said his right leg was 9.5 centimeters shorter than his left leg but is now the same size. The first question that everyone asks, he said, is, “Does it hurt?” “It doesn’t,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”
He said he faces two additional surgeries, including one to remove the external fixator and insert a bone pin. Following that procedure, he said, he should be able to walk and take part in physical therapy.
Reflecting on the shooting and his recovery, John Trujillo said he is fine.
“I think about it. But it doesn’t bother me,” he said. “He made his bed. He’s now in prison. And let me tell you: I wouldn’t want to be in prison.”