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Victim’s father wants ‘kids to live their lives’

Wed., Jan. 28, 2009, midnight

Parents hope teen wounded in Portland shooting will continue exchange program

PORTLAND – A foreign exchange student critically wounded in a downtown shooting rampage is expected to live, and her parents say they want her to complete her experience of studying in the United States.

Susanna De Sousa, 18, of Italy, was the most seriously injured of the seven people who survived the gunfire outside The Zone, an under-21 nightspot, late Saturday. Two girls died in the attack. The shooter, Erik S. Ayala, died Tuesday from a self-inflicted shot to the head.

De Sousa, who has been upgraded to stable but serious condition, is in Oregon spending her senior year at Clackamas High School in suburban Portland. She and the other foreign exchange students were at the nightclub to celebrate a birthday. There appears to be no link between Ayala and the victims, police said.

The youngest of three children, De Sousa’s older brother and sister have also lived in the U.S. as exchange students, said her father, Americo De Sousa, who arrived here Monday with his wife, Tiziana Trevison.

The couple told reporters Tuesday they want their daughter to finish the school year here – if that’s what she wants.

“We’d like her to continue her experience,” her father said. “We want our kids to live their lives.”

The United States has a significantly higher crime rate than most European countries, De Sousa acknowledges, but learning about American culture is an experience he and his wife want their children to have.

De Sousa, a Roman Catholic, said he prays for his children’s safety daily, whether they are in Italy or elsewhere. “When they are abroad a little more,” he said. “In Europe, we know that in the United States things are a little more violent.”

Still, Saturday’s shooting hasn’t changed his view of Portland as a safe and hospitable city, he said.

“It was just being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said.

Authorities say the incident is the worst mass shooting in Portland’s history and it has alarmed many in a city that is better known for being eco-friendly and having sweeping vistas than for violent crimes.

The teenage girls killed in the shooting were Martha “Tika” Paz de Noboa, a 17-year-old Peruvian exchange student, and 16-year-old Ashley Wilks, a sophomore at Clackamas High.

Police and local school officials identified the other wounded exchange students as Ana Zambrano Soledispa, 18, of Ecuador; Gonzalo Vasquez Orozco, 18, of Guatemala; Trista Chang, 18, of Taiwan; and Anne Sophie Rialland, 16, of France.

Two other injured victims are from the Portland area: Jalontae Howard, 16, a Gresham high school student, and Brad Yoast, the general manager of Kells Irish Restaurant & Pub, next door to The Zone nightclub.

All who were injured are expected to survive the shooting.

De Sousa was struck multiple times and she has undergone two surgeries in the last three days, Dr. Ameen Ramzy of Legacy Emanuel Hospital said. Some bullets hit her vital organs, but she is expected to recover without any long-term disabilities.

Americo De Sousa describes his daughter as a dedicated student, who likes archaeology, art and photography. She is interested in studying biology after she finishes high school, he said.

Susanna De Sousa turned 18 last week and had gone to the nightclub with others to celebrate another exchange student’s birthday.

De Sousa’s host mother in Portland, Suzy Dyer, said the young woman had waited two months to go to the club and dance with friends – something she had done often at discotheques in her native Rome. A slumber party was also planned that night.

Her father, who repeatedly called his daughter an “angel” while speaking to reporters, said her recovery is a miracle. Ramzy, the surgeon, doesn’t negate the claim.

“I respect their conviction that this is a miracle,” he said. “I think she’ll pull through this.”

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