Students react after a shooting at the University of Virginia
A shooting Sunday evening at the University of Virginia has left three dead and two injured according to the University. The suspect is in custody.
Megan Smith, USA TODAY
University of Virginia running back Mike Hollins has been removed from a ventilator after he was wounded in a school shooting that left three of his teammates dead, his mother announced on Thursday.
Brenda Hollins said her son was removed from intensive care and walked for the first time on Wednesday, days after he was shot in the back by a former UVA football player who opened fire on a charter bus returning to campus on Sunday.
“He’s recovering,” Brenda Hollins told ESPN on Thursday. “Mentally and physically, he’s having a hard time. He doesn’t know why everything happened, why he was shot one time, why he is here and not his friends.”
UVA football players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry were killed in the shooting. Mike Hollins – who ran back onto the charter bus as shots rang out to help his classmates before he was shot himself – only recently learned of their deaths.
MEDICAL EXAMINER: Slain University of Virginia football players were shot in the head
Brenda Hollins said doctors advised her not to tell Mike Hollins about the death of his teammates because they wanted to keep his vitals stable heading into his second surgery. That didn’t stop Mike Hollins, who was intubated at the time, from asking with a pen and paper.
“We had to tell him that we had no information,” Brenda Hollins said. “We told him that because of the severity of the situation, it was confidential and we couldn’t get any information. I don’t think he believed us. He was throwing his hands up and had this look on his face, and I know he was saying, ‘Why? What do you mean?'”
His family delivered the heartbreaking news to him following his second procedure Wednesday.
“He was waiting,” Brenda Hollins recalled. “Right after they removed the ventilator, I heard him say, ‘Thanks, doc.’ I hadn’t heard him talk, so it was just a blessing to hear his voice. As soon as we walked in, that was his question: ‘Where is D’Sean?’ He knew. My daughter was standing closest to him, and he looked at her. She shook her head. She said, ‘He’s gone.’
She continued: “Mike’s cry was so deep it was like coming from his soul. It was like a cry I’d never heard before in my life. It was so deep. His cry was so deep. There was nothing I could do. I can’t grab him and pull him to me and hug him because he’s hurt. I can’t move him. It was like he was alone in that moment. We were there, but he was alone.”
Mike Hollins was especially close with Perry, who convinced him to go on the field trip with the group to see a play about Emmett Till in Washington D.C.
Brenda Hollins said her son said, ” I don’t know how I’m going to live without (Perry).”
Mike Hollins recalled to his mother what happened on the charter bus Sunday night. He said he thought balloons were popping, until he realized a student had a gun. Mike Hollins was one of the first people off the bus, but he said only two others followed him. He directed the students to keep running and went back on the bus to help others.
“He said, ‘Mom, I went back. I needed to do something. I was going to beat on the windows because no one else was coming off the bus.’ He said, ‘I was going to beat on the windows. I was going to go on the bus and tell them to come on, get off.'”
Mike Hollins then came face-to-face with the shooter, 22-year-old Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., who he said pointed a handgun at him. Mike Hollins was shot in the back while trying to run away. The bullet exited his stomach.
“The only thing he remembers is he tried to turn, but he saw him lift the gun. He felt his back get hot and he ran,” Brenda Hollins said. “He got afraid that if he ran too far into the parking garage, no one would find him and he would die.”
A witness told police the gunman targeted specific victims, shooting one as he slept, a prosecutor said in court Wednesday during Jones’ first court appearance. Authorities have not addressed a possible motive, and neither Jones nor his attorney addressed the charges in court.
ESPN identified a fifth shooting victim as Marlee Morgan.
Mike Hollins said he didn’t know Jones. Jones, who was on the Virginia football team in 2018 but did not appear in a game, was arrested on three counts of second-degree murder, among other charges.
Mike Hollins has a long road to recovery.
Brenda Hollins said her son will have to undergo intensive rehabilitation and won’t be able to lift anything for three months, but he has a goal to return to the football field. (He has another year of eligibility due to COVID-19.) Mike Hollins is also determined to walk across the stage to accept his bachelor’s degree from UVA next month.
“That would be a blessing,” Brenda Hollins said. “He’s walking with his three brothers on his back, and that’s exactly how he’s going to feel because he’s missing them. And so he’s determined and if he will graduate, he will walk.”
Brenda Hollins told her son, “You’re going to live for them.”
Contributing: The Associated Press