Family, friends of accidentally shot Athens teen hold benefit, comment on lessons learned

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ATHENS, Ala. -- Family members and friends held a truck and car meet  in Athens Friday evening to benefit Austin Lopez, the teenager police say was accidentally shot at a Walmart there last weekend.

His family tells WHNT he's improving with the help of multiple surgeries and days in the hospital. As of Friday evening, he had been moved out of the ICU at Huntsville Hospital and listed in stable condition, they say, but there's still a while to go until he has fully recovered. They're hoping he will be out of the hospital soon.

In his honor, friends organized a benefit for Lopez to help him pay his medical bills. They held a truck and car meet at the Tractor Supply in Athens off Highway 72 Friday night.

"It should tell him he's got a lot of friends that really care," said Cody Thomas, who says it was his idea to do this.

"This is a big thing to celebrate," echoed Hunter Taylor, another of Austin's friends. "You've got someone who just got that close to death. He's really lucky to be alive."

After the meet, the group cruised from Tractor Supply to Walmart and back. Athens Police escorted them.

Money raised at the event support Lopez's medical bills, his friends say, and halfway through they had already raised more than $1000. Everyone who could, wore pink in honor of Austin's favorite color, posing by his truck to take photos to encourage him in his recovery.

Taylor says they have all learned from the accident that hurt Lopez.  "Things can happen," he said. "Be extra careful. Check things. You can't check something too many times."

"It scared me real bad," commented Thomas.