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SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE (CBSMiami) – An 18-year-old Florida City bicyclist who nearly lost his life in late October in a shooting is speaking out for the first time, saying he prays that Miami-Dade police will find the gunman.

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This was a Thanksgiving with special meaning for Paul Merlo and his family as he was able to celebrate Thanksgiving after a difficult recovery in the past month.

He spent 4 days in the hospital initially after being shot in the stomach.

In an exclusive interview with CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, Merlo said, “The gunman ran at us like he was going to scare us. He said I will kill you. I am going to kill you right now. And then he took off on his bike.”

Merlo who preferred to wear sunglasses to shield his eyes spoke about the man seen in new surveillance tape that was released by Miami-Dade Police that shows the suspect with his hair in a bun.

“I felt very scared because all I wanted to do is go to school and come home and see my Mom and my Dad and live my daily life,” he said.

It happened on a bicycle path by the South Dade Transitway at Southwest 132nd St. not long after Merlo and his friends had participated in a critical mass bicycle event.

“For me to go to an event and come back after having a good time with my friends and for one little person who was angry on drugs or whatever he might be, he wants to go ahead and shoot,” he said. “It could have turned my life apart. It could have hit my private parts and it could have hit my organs. I could still be in the hospital recovering from surgery.”

Merlo said the incident unfolded when the suspect pointed a gun at him and a 14-year-old friend. They followed him and tried to make contact with a nearby police officer.

“On the way back he looked back at me and I tried to de-escalate the problem and he comes back and he runs after me and shoots me in the chest, I mean here under the belly,” he said.

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Now Merlo said “I am thankful to be home and with my family.”

His mother Rina Rosado agreed as she kissed her son on the cheek.

“I am very lucky he’s here,” she said, telling her son “I love you too.”

“I am just grateful that he just walking and not in a wheelchair,” she said. “So many different things could go wrong.”

Merlo and his mother hope someone will recognize the gunman.

“We want justice,” she said. “We are just happy he is home. It could have been someone else. It’s just uncalled for.”

“Hopefully they will find him,” said Paul Merlo. “It’s not right. We are just teenagers and teenagers coming into adult hood and we have to deal with things like this in the street. It is not right.”

Merlo is a senior at Career Prepatory Academy.

He told D’Oench that he did not recognize the man who shot him.

Miami-Dade police described him as a Hispanic male, with a slim build, about 5’4” to 5’6” tall with long curly dark hair worn in a bun and he was wearing a blue shirt and black cargo pants.

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Anyone with information that can help find him should call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS (8477).

Peter D'Oench