Tonjia Shafer recalls her 19-year-old daughter running up the stairs in their north Minneapolis house and shouting, "Mom, call 911, Shawny can't breathe."

Shafer watched as her nephew, Eric P. Boone, gave the 21-month-old girl CPR. Then firefighters arrived and resuscitated the child, but noticed suspicious marks on her throat and face.

Specialists at Children's Hospital say the girl, who was injured in October, may now be "a quadriplegic and/or require a permanent tracheotomy to breathe."

Boone, 21, was charged with first degree assault last Friday, and could face seven to 20 years in prison, after he told police that he threw the girl onto his girlfriend's bed "like a sack of potatoes," according to the criminal complaint. Boone is in the Hennepin County jail in lieu of $150,000 bail and makes a court appearance on Tuesday.

In an interview Monday at the family's home, Shafer broke down in tears as she recalled what happened on Oct. 26. She said the injured girl is Shawny Bradshaw.

"She was a happy baby, she was always talking to me and joking," Shafer said.

About six months ago, Shawny had moved into Shafer's basement in the 2400 block of Logan Avenue N. with her mother, Shanise Pruitt, 21, and Boone, who is not the child's father. Pruitt and Boone also have a newborn son.

Shafer said Boone could be a "good dad" and patient, but there were times when the couple was in the basement and she would hear the little girl being slapped. She did not know which parent did it, but said Pruitt left the discipline to Boone. "They both yelled at her," Shafer said.

The day of the incident, Shafer said Boone had not slept for three days because he had been taking care of the infant, who was crying all the time.

"I don't believe in my heart that my nephew intentionally hurt this baby," she said. "It doesn't matter whether the system punishes him or not. God will punish him."

The girl's mother told police that her daughter would cry whenever she was around Boone and had "blood clots" in her eyes "all the time," the criminal complaint said.

Others who live in the house told police they have seen Boone hit the child and had seen the girl with broken blood vessels in her eyes, the complaint said.

Pruitt was away at cosmetology school on the day of Shawny's injury, Shafer said.

She said Boone had asked her to look after the infant while he gave Shawny a bath. Shafer's sister told her she saw the child in the tub, whimpering. Shortly after that, Shafer said her daughter came upstairs to say that Shawny was not breathing.

When officers asked Boone what had happened, he told them that he was asleep in the same bed with the girl and the newborn. When the girl woke up, Boone said, he discovered that she was not breathing. He later told police that when the newborn began to cry, he pushed on Shawny's stomach to reach the infant and later noticed she was not breathing.

Three days later, a child protection investigator learned Boone had thrown the toddler on the bed out of anger because she fell from his hands as he walked down the stairs with her, the complaint said.

In a follow-up interview with police, Boone said she squirmed out of his arms twice as he went downstairs. He caught her the first time and was upset because he'd told her to be still. She squirmed again and fell to the floor. He picked her up and threw her about five feet face-first onto the bed, in Boone's description, "like a sack of potatoes," the complaint said.

The girl's doctors indicated that her injuries -- which include a high cervical cord injury -- could have happened from being thrown onto a bed or during other violent acts.

On Boone's record are non-felony convictions for disorderly conduct, tampering with a motor vehicle and interference with a police officer. • 612-673-4482 • 612-673-4224