- Three men convicted of a shooting that paralyzed a 5-year-old girl are given life sentences
- Thusha was seen on surveillance video dancing happily moments before she was hit by a bullet
- "I cannot think of a worse time in my life," her mother says
- A police officer welcomes the sentences, says the men will have years to reflect on their crime
Three men convicted in a London gang shooting that left a little girl paralyzed were sentenced to life in prison Thursday, the Metropolitan Police said.
The plight of Thusha Kamaleswaran, whose last carefree moments before she was caught in the crossfire last year were captured on surveillance video, touched many hearts in the United Kingdom.
Now six, she remains in a wheelchair and will need care for the rest of her life, her parents say.
The three men convicted, Anthony McCalla, Kazeem Kolawole and Nathaniel Grant, were all given life sentences by the court in London.
The judge ordered that Grant serve a minimum of 17 years in prison, and McCalla and Kolawole a minimum of 14 years, before they are eligible for parole.
The surveillance video used in their conviction last month showed Thusha, then a shy five-year-old with pigtails, dancing happily in the aisles of her uncle's small store in Stockwell, southwest London.
Moments later, she was knocked down by a bullet to the chest fired through the store's open door by the three men as they pursued members of a rival gang.
A statement given to the court by Thusha's mother, Sharmilla Kamaleswaran, spells out the impact the tragedy has had on the family.
"I cannot begin to explain the shock that I felt at the time of the shooting. We were at the shop as a family enjoying seeing relatives. The children were happy, running up and down the shop, playing and dancing. Seconds later I had to see Thusha lying on the floor, crying, telling me she couldn't feel her legs."
The ordeal has continued with her daughter's surgeries and her daily struggle with pain, Sharmilla Kamaleswaran said.
"To see her lying in a hospital bed just took all of my heart away. My other children were crying. They couldn't understand why this had happened. I cannot think of a worse time in my life," she said.
A year later, Thusha's younger sister prays every day for her sister to "get up and walk as before," their mother said. Meanwhile, Thusha's dreams of becoming a dancer and musician have evaporated.
"It is hard for all at home to see an innocent child who had been hopping around like a little rabbit, playing with her siblings and friends, now paralyzed for life," Sharmilla Kamaleswaran said.
The three men convicted at the Old Bailey court were tracked down after detectives viewed more than 700 hours of closed-circuit footage seized from more than 150 cameras, the police said.
A 35-year-old man, Roshan Selvakumar, was also struck in the March 2011 attack as he shopped for groceries. He has bullet fragments still lodged in his head that cannot safely be removed.
"The images of Thusha dancing happily in the Stockwell Food and Wine are images that many of us will struggle to erase from our memories," said Det. Supt. Gordon Allison.
"Today, McCalla, Kolawole and Grant will have many years in prison to reflect on the damage they caused to an innocent five-year-old girl and her family but also Roshan and the community that is London as a whole."
Several Metropolitan Police officers who worked on the case are undertaking a charity trek to raise money for Thusha's care later this year and have already raised more than $207,000 in donations, he said.