‘God kept me’: Lancaster HS athlete who nearly lost his life celebrates senior night, comeback

LANCASTER, S.C. — High school senior night -- it’s an annual tradition typically celebrated during the last home game of the season, and to honor student-athletes in their final year, prior to graduation.

This year’s celebration was particularly special for Lancaster High School senior Grayson Kirk, an All-State guard on the boy’s basketball team, who also serves as team captain.

Nearly one year ago to the date, on Feb. 25, Kirk was playing pick-up basketball with a few friends at Gay Street Court in Lancaster when shots rang out nearby. Then 17-years old, Kirk realized he was hit after falling to the ground.

His family and friends spent hours unsure if he’d survive.

“I’m pretty sure this was the last game. Everybody was getting ready to leave,” he recalled. “You just hear three gunshots, right? Then after you heard those three, you heard three more. It was closer, and then you just heard a barrage of gunshots.”

Kirk said he was shot in the stomach. The 17-year-old was initially treated in Lancaster, then airlifted to a hospital in Charlotte where doctors performed major surgery. Meanwhile, a crowd of loved ones and community members gathered outside, singing and praying as they waited for updates on his condition.

“Honestly, the support made it a little easier for me to handle,” Grayson’s mother Traci Kirk said.

“I don’t think it really hit me until I woke up in the hospital with all the tubes and things in me,” Grayson added.

“That’s when it kind of hit me like, ‘Oh man, you got shot. This is something that could change your life.’”

It’s a moment that did change his life -- again. In 2018, when Grayson was 13 years old, his father and community figure Deputy Sheriff James Kirk Jr. collapsed during training and died. He was 57 years old.

Grayson Kirk admitted his recovery journey hasn’t been easy. He initially found it difficult to trust the process needed to regain his strength.

“It’s been kind of rocky,” Kirk said.

“At certain times I tried to rush it but as I started going to physical therapy, as I started seeing the bigger picture, I think I slowed down and started trusting the process.”

While the senior expressed doubt, his coach, Jerron Cauthen voiced his anger.

“I look at them just like they would be my son,” Cauthen said.

“A wonderful student, a wonderful athlete, wanting to play basketball at the next level and then knowing that someone could’ve possible taken that away from him.”

In his senior season, Grayson Kirk is among the Lancaster Bruins’ leading scorers, team captain, and was recently named All-State.

Jerron Cauthen, often the teacher while on the basketball court, said he’s learned significant life lessons from Grayson’s journey.

“To be honest with you, when my father passed away last year -- April – [Grayson] was one of the phone calls I got,” he said.

Cauthen said the standout guard offered a listening ear.

“We share that -- losing our fathers -- and that’s a lot,” he said as wiped away tears. “So I’ve got his back for life.”

Grayson Kirk still has the scarring on his stomach from the day he was shot. He says it’s part of his story now.

“It’s not a bad thing,” he said. “When I see it, I know I’m here for a reason.”

“I could’ve died that night but God kept me and he has a plan for me.”

Grayson Kirk wasn’t the only victim shot that day. Investigators said a bullet pierced the roof of a nearby truck, hitting the 53-year-old driver in the shoulder.

Lancaster Police have yet to make any arrests in the case and have not determined why the shooting happened.

For those who have any information about that night, call or text the Lancaster Police Department’s anonymous tip hotline: 803-289-6040.

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