Osseo graduate DJ Hebert, a key member of the Orioles' 2012 state championship-winning basketball team, and his daughter Nova. Submitted photo.

In one moment, former Osseo star athlete DJ Hebert stood in line to enter a restaurant and in the next, friends were carrying him to safety as he bled from gunshot wounds.
Hebert was one of 11 people wounded when shots were fired amid a crowded block of people in the Uptown neighborhood just after midnight last Sunday morning.
“It seemed like it was going to be a good night,” said Hebert, 26. “I didn’t hear any argument or altercation, but then again I wasn’t looking for it, either.”
Hebert had just arrived at the front of a line outside Hoban Korean BBQ restaurant on Hennepin Avenue South near West Lake Street. Crowd restrictions necessitated by COVID-19 regulations meant Hebert and friends had to wait for some patrons inside to leave.
Then “12 to 13 seconds later is when it all started,” Hebert said. Bullets seemingly from nowhere shattered two of the restaurant’s windows behind Hebert. A woman next to him said she’d been hit. And “a split second later I was hit in the right knee,” Hebert said. “It was a numb but really painful feeling that’s hard to describe.”
He fell back on the sidewalk but didn’t stay down long. “I didn’t feel safe on the ground,” he said. “So, I got up and tried to get out of there. I ran out of my shoes, actually. Then I felt another sharp pain in my left elbow. I think I got grazed by another bullet.”
Stricken, Hebert relied on two friends to carry him to a pair of nearby police officers. An ambulance brought him to Hennepin County Medical Center.
Hebert’s mother, Ellen Stewart, felt her worst fear was compounded by lingering grief over the recent killing of George Floyd.
“I thought about that very thing when I found out the shooting was random,” said Stewart, a mother of two sons and a daughter. “I can prepare my sons and have the ‘If you get pulled over by police’ conversation. And I talk to them about being careful when you’re out at different places. Now, you sit in a moment of being unable to escape it. There is no insulation. There is nothing you can do to protect yourself. It gets very depressing and hopeless. But moving forward, I am trying to be careful that we’re not going to stop living because we’re paranoid to go places and do things.”
Excellence in athletics brought Hebert places. He played quarterback for Osseo’s football team and became one of former coach Derrin Lamker’s “favorite kids of all time,’’ Hebert recalled. “We were getting decent and he put us on the map. He could bring a team together between the lines and in the locker room.”
Same story on the basketball court. Driven by Hebert, the Orioles won the Class 4A state tournament title in 2012. Hebert led the Orioles in scoring in two of their three tournament victories and played every minute.
“We are putting together a poster of our top five best players by decade and DJ’s name was one of our first picks from the past decade,” Osseo coach Tim Theisen said. “He was a fierce competitor. No one took a drill off in practice while DJ was around.”
Pursuing college football meant switching to receiver. Hebert played two seasons at Northern Iowa then transferred to Minnesota-Duluth. A knee injury ended his junior season and with a daughter on the way, Hebert hung up the cleats. He later graduated with a degree in entrepreneurship.
Daughter Nova, now 2, just thinks daddy fell. She’ll learn the whole story in time. For now, she is helping widen her father’s perspective.
“The love that I’ve gotten helped me remember all the great relationships I am blessed to have,” Hebert said. “And seeing my daughter and how she loves me, even thinking about if I wasn’t here for her – I can’t imagine. I feel, ‘Why me?’ sometimes but I also feel lucky and blessed.”
Stewart, with more than 25 years of experience as a school teacher and administrator, aims to make teaching opportunities out of recent challenges. She will become director of equity services for the St. Cloud Area School District on July 1.
“I feel like I am open and aware to things and my consciousness is very, very high,” Stewart said. “I am living in a time where I am getting experience that is just prime for my new position. I’m coming in as a change in trajectory is happening about how people look at race and equity.”
For Hebert, the stray bullet was removed. No bones or ligaments were damaged. He should experience a 100% recovery. He’s already walking around without crutches, ready to resume his new job as a Liberty Mutual sales representative. A GoFundMe account was established to help with medical costs before his benefits begin.
Hebert also volunteers on the north side of Minneapolis where his mother lives and the Uptown neighborhood where he resides.
“We’ve done an extraordinary job of just being there for people who are in need and I don’t want a situation like this to take from everything that we’ve done,” Hebert said. “I haven’t lost any hope in the community. I still think our next step is going to be our best step.”

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