Rising From The Ashes- Diallo Mitchell, Jr.

How a “good boy” that followed the rules created a life for himself beyond a random drive-by shooting.

It was July 21, 2013, and 18-year-old Diallo Mitchell, Jr. was enjoying his first summer after graduating high school.

“I have always been a good kid,” emphasizes Diallo, the oldest of two brothers he describes as “best of friends.”

Mitchell grew up in dire circumstances­ in Duquense, PA.– his father spent years in and out of prison for selling drugs. “And when he was around,” reminisces Diallo, “he wasn’t someone I could look up to–he was abusive to our mom,” he says, indicating that the elder Mitchell abused the family verbally and physically.

Party Ride

But on July 21, 2013, Diallo – whose name means “Warrior”– just wanted to be a teenager. His friends invited him to a summer party. “The whole story is my friend’s girlfriend cheated on him and he wanted to confront the guy,” says Diallo, somewhat sheepishly. “So, he had a group of us with him and we were trying to go to this party.”

But just as he was about to leave, Diallo Mitchell Jr., who was raised in the church by his “Pap” and his mother, had a gut feeling he could not shake.

God Whispers

“I had this gut feeling God was telling me, you know,” he says, “not even to go.

So, I’m trying not to go.”

But true to his namesake, he didn’t want to seem afraid.

So he hopped into the backseat in support of his friend. 

But when they got to the party, all Mitchell Jr.’s friends got out of the car. “I stayed put,” he recounts. I never got out of the car,” And as he was sitting in the car, he thought, “Everybody might as well just come back to the car.”

Random Shots

And then, all hell broke loose. Diallo Mitchell Jr. was raised by his mother with his younger brother in a one-bedroom apartment. His pastor’s Pap taught him the way of Christ, and he was a four-sport athlete (football, baseball, ran and performed track and field events). During all this, Diallo Mitchell Jr. excelled academically, won the finance award, and was Prom King, and “never got in trouble.”

But in July 2013 he found himself in the middle of a backseat, caught in gunshot crossfire.

 “The other guys after us started saying things–I don’t know what.”

Diallo says that his mom’s words came to him during the chaos. “She used to say, ‘Diallo, you gotta stop going out so much.’” I argued, ‘Mom, I’m not a bad kid. I don’t do anything.’” 

And she said, “Hey, I’m not worried about your decisions. I’m worried about what the decisions others may make.”

Diallo Mitchell Jr. says he never understood the gravity of those words until that night.

“I was in the middle of the backseat because I never got out of the car,” explains Mitchell Jr. “So, everybody jumped in from both sides.”

Only Casualty

Mitchell Jr. tried to get everybody down in the backseat and admonished the driver to “pull off.”

His feeling was that he didn’t want anyone to get shot. It was then that the car they were in was shot up. Diallo Mitchell Jr. was the only one hit, as the bullet entered from the trunk area and hit him in his spine.

“And then I had the same feeling that I had in my stomach that God gave me before I went to the party,” he says. “Then as I got hit, you know, I started screaming a little bit and crying,” he admits.


“Then I stopped. I stopped screaming. I stopped crying and prayed, ‘Jesus, please do not let me die now.’ And it’s like when I got the wind knocked out of me.”

The assailants were caught, and ironically one was the son of a law enforcement officer.

(Murders, rapes, and aggravated assaults all increased from 2012.–) The police attributed the rise in rapes to a change in the FBI’s definition to include male victims for the first time.)

Mitchell Jr. was rushed to the nearest hospital. At first, Mitchell Jr. was paralyzed from the chest down, and the bullet was a millimeter away from his main artery. The surgeons can’t remove it because it is too dangerous.

Legs Still Paralyzed

Now, ten years later, Diallo Mitchell Jr.’s “official” classification is L2 (lumbar 2), incomplete.

“At first, I was paralyzed from the chest down,” he explains. Very scary and disconcerting for an 18-year-old with his whole life ahead of him. “I couldn’t feel anything below the chest,” he says. “I couldn’t fill my fingers or anything.”

Ten years later, and with a lot of hard work and trust in therapy and God, Diallo Mitchell Jr. proves he lives up to his “Warrior” namesake. “Right now, I’m paralyzed, a little bit below the knees, and I walk with arm crutches, canes, walker, and I finished therapy,” he proudly says.

Therapy Warrior

Diallo Mitchell Jr. went to therapy four times a day, five days a week, as an outpatient. “I was in therapy for about, I would say, about a year in the hospital (as an outpatient). Mitchell Jr. was supposed to be in the hospital for four to six months but was discharged in a month because of his already-built athletic core.

“I had to learn how to do everything in my everyday life,” he admits. “It was hard to accept being paralyzed. It was hard to accept myself because it just came off being an athlete, you know, playing four sports a couple of months ago, before this happened.”

Depression Hits

“I was just so at the bottom at the time,’ Mitchell Jr. admits. “I was very depressed and fought thoughts of suicide,” he admits. “I wanted to kill myself at one point because I didn’t know how to accept myself as being in the world,” Mitchell Jr. explains.

He didn’t know how to accept his new image but wanted to regain control over his situation. “I wanted to stop being the victim and I wanted a victory over my situation,” Mitchell Jr. says triumphantly.

Taking Control, Motivationally

“So I decided to take control of my mind,” he says, the one part of him that never failed him.

Mitchell Jr. likens it to a mental battle.  The first step that he took I was to stop worrying about things that he couldn’t control.

And he concentrated on taking control of his attitude.

“I started watching motivational videos. I started journaling,” Mitchell Jr. offers. “I was journaling to take care of my mind.”

Sometimes he would journal all day. “I would wake up in the morning, put my time down that I woke up with, how I felt that day, thoughts, and everything that I couldn’t share with somebody else,” he explains.

Mitchell Jr. says, “But at night, I would watch another motivational video before I went to sleep.”

He would then meditate and think about everything in my life.

“While I was doing that, I was going out a lot until I started feeling better,” Mitchell Jr. admits” But it took time to change my mind and mindset. I figured it was more how I viewed what I went through rather than what I was going through.”

A Stoic Mindset

“I learned that it felt better to be happy,” sighs Mitchell Jr. “I feel better worrying about things that I can control,” he admits, “and I let go of things nothing I could do,” he says. But I figured that attitude is the only thing I can control.”

(We briefly discuss the Stoics and how his attitude and studies align with their teachings. He had heard a little about them but was interested in learning more. I offered that Ryan Shazier studied the Stoics and that I had been for a while even before my accident. Ever the learner, Diallo was eager for more. I recommended “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday. And also to read “Discourses and Selected Writings (Penguin Classics) Paperback, a Stoic philosopher born a slave.


And during Diallo Mitchell Jr.’s rehabilitation process, he had to appear in court as part of the criminal proceedings.

“That was the first time I ever saw the guy, and I forgave him.”

The man was sentenced to 4-6 years, but for Mitchell Jr., “I forgave him because that’s one thing that helps me in the healing process,” Mitchell Jr. explains. “I’m Christian. And, I didn’t think that having that inside of me would allow me to grow in the ways I needed to,” he explains. “And it stopped me from thinking the ways that I was thinking at the time.”

He started thinking that God put me through this for a reason. I didn’t know why God wanted me to go through it, and it was hard for me too, you know, except that at one point, my mom said, “You’re chosen like you were chosen for this.”

Her saying that to Diallo helped him figure out what to do.

College Bound

From there, Diallo Mitchell Jr. was physically and mentally strong enough to start classes at Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) while taking therapy.

“I took the initiative and made a living and a life that I wanted to live,” he explains. And then, the opportunity came for Mitchell Jr. to share his story. A close friend was a superintendent of my school, and he allowed me to speak and share my story.

“It was odd at first, and I remember turning that one talk into therapy,” he says, smiling, “to where I go to places I speak about my story.”

When Diallo Mitchell Jr. goes to speak, he tries to connect with kids. “I speak on gun violence. I speak on life, adversity, and everything I was going through when I got the chance to transfer to Cal University of Pennsylvania with a major in sports management and a minor in psychology.”

Full Story. No Stop.

“I didn’t let things hold me back. I “opened up” more to opening myself. I stopped being insecure. I stopped thinking about things that other people might have thought about me,” exalts Mitchell Jr.

Soon after graduation, Mitchell Jr. obtained a position through The University of Pittsburgh, where he works daily at Steel Valley High School. The program is called “Just Discipline.”

Mitchell’s title through Pitt is a “restorative practice coordinator and violence prevention specialist.” But he runs the program full-time through Steel Valley. 

And not without mention, Diallo Mitchell Jr. is newly licensed in PA and is searching for his first car that can accept hand controls! He lives in an apartment with his best friend–his brother–and a car is this young man’s last piece of independence.

“I never got into trouble,” he keeps saying but has made a life-giving lemon tree out of the lemons he was handed.

And as for Mom–her sons are cut from her cloth. She has continuously upgraded her employment situation and lives in her own apartment “close enough” to her amazing sons.

Diallo Mitchell Jr.’s Shalieve Wisdom

It’s not about what you’re going through but how you view what you’re going through. What you’re going through doesn’t determine your outcome. It’s the physical and mental mindset that you develop that will help determine your results.

Give yourself a chance to grow
Give yourself a chance to overcome because many people go through many things and then the results that they want don’t happen right away. It takes a second to acquire the injury, but sometimes years to develop the mental and physical strength to live and thrive with it.

Sometimes, it gets worse before it gets better
Sometimes it must get worse before it gets better.

And a bonus: Take care. 
If you can’t win the war, you can’t . You can’t win the war against the world until you win the war against yourself. You must win the battle mentally before you can win a battle physically.