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Young hero meets Falcons quarterback

By Ed Brock

When gunshots broke out at his cousin's birthday party, 8-year-old Hassan Reed, Jr., didn't think about himself.

"I was warning my cousins to come upstairs before they got shot," said Reed. "I didn't want my little cousin to get shot, or my brothers."

Reed, who lives in Riverdale, was the last one of the children at the party on Saturday in northwest Atlanta to go up the stairs to safety. One man was chasing another across the apartment complex and shooting at him.

One of the bullets hit Reed in the left upper thigh.

Now Reed is being hailed as a hero for his actions under fire, and his greatest reward so far was the chance to meet Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Michael Vick on Wednesday.

"I love him," Reed said.

Reed and his mother, 25-year-old Tanesha Atkinson, met Vick in the studio of an Atlanta radio station where he received an autographed jersey and some miniature footballs. Vick also had some advice for the aspiring young football player, Atkinson said.

Stay in school and get good grades.

But there's a bigger obstacle to Reed realizing his dream. The bullet that hit him is still in his thigh since his doctors are concerned that, because it is so close to the bone, removing it might cause nerve damage.

"He was going to try out for football this week," Atkinson said. "We were worried if he can still play ... we don't know right now."

Reed is recovering at home with a walker scaled to his side and a special heating pad under the injured leg. Atlanta police are looking for the man they say is responsible for Reed's injury, Derricor Humphrey, whom a witness to the shooting identified.

But Reed has his doubts about Humphrey as a suspect.

"His hair is different and his skin color," Reed said.

Gerald Rose, head of Cobb County-based New Order that helped arrange the meeting between Vick and Reed, said he hopes investigators would pay more attention to what Reed has to say about the incident.

"We don't want them to just arrest anybody just to say they got someone," Rose said.

Investigators are confident in their identification of Humphrey as a suspect, said Atlanta Police Sgt. John Quigley.

Meanwhile, Reed said he is getting a little tired of being a celebrity. He seems happier playing with his brothers and being their personal hero.