UVA shooting survivor Mike Hollins recounts horror
A survivor of the deadly shooting at the University of Virginia recalled the frenzied moments after the gunman opened fire, injuring him and one other student and taking the lives of three of his friends.
Mike Hollins, a Baton Rouge native and running back on the Cavaliers football team, was on the bus returning to campus from a field trip to Washington, DC Sunday night. When he first heard the gunfire, he thought it was balloons popping.
Once he saw the alleged gunman, former walk-on player Christopher Darnell Jones, Jr., Hollins initially fled the bus with two others, only to turn around to try and rescue his teammates.
“His classmates are grateful for him because they said he saved their lives,” his mother Brenda Hollins told ESPN on Thursday. “He was the first off the bus and told two of his classmates to run, and he went back.
“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.’”
Jones then shot Hollins in the back. He was eventually transferred to UVA Medical Center, where he remained Thursday.
“I was devastated,” Brenda said of the first time she saw her son in the hospital early Monday morning. “Just walking into his room, I saw his feet first and they weren’t moving. And then I hear the machines and I just see him lying there. He was on the ventilator. The worst thing that I could have ever imagined to see in the world.”
Though Hollins is now out of intensive care and was no longer on a ventilator after two surgeries, “he’s having a hard time,” Brenda said.
“He doesn’t know why everything happened, why he was shot one time, why he is here and not his friends,” she explained, referring to her son’s slain teammates Devin Chandler, Level Davis, Jr., and D’Sean Perry. A fifth victim, Marlee Morgan, is reportedly in good condition.
Hollins was not informed of his friends’ deaths until after his second surgery on Tuesday.
“We couldn’t tell him because we needed his vitals to stay where they were because he had surgery coming up,” Brenda Hollins said. “They didn’t want any complications.”
After he came out of the procedure with no complications, his family delivered the devastating blow.
“He was waiting. 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,” his mother said. “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.’”
“It was like he was alone in that moment,” Brenda said, remembering her son’s agony learning about his friends’ fates. “We were there, but he was alone.”
Hollins and Perry, his mother explained, were both juniors and shared a special bond.
“’Mike, you’re going to live for them,’” Brenda said she told him. “’You’re going to live for him.’”
Neither Hollins’ mother nor his coaches were surprised by his selfless actions on Sunday.
“It would surprise me if he didn’t [go back to help],” Brenda said. “That’s who Mike is, so it didn’t surprise me.”
“He’s the kind of young man that cares about everybody else,” coach Tony Elliott agreed. “He had other teammates on the bus, and he was going back for his teammates … He didn’t care if he put himself back in harm’s way, but he was going back to check on his teammates.”
The Post previously reported that Jones, 22, was known to Charlottesville police since September. He now faces three counts of second-degree murder and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, as well as two counts of malicious wounding and additional gun-related charges.
He is currently being held at a Charlottesville jail without bail.
“I already have [forgiven him],” Brenda said of the shooter. “I had to in order to heal so I can help my son. I mean, I don’t have a choice. I have to, and then I have to move on to help my baby.”
“[Mike has] got to live with not just a scar, but the pain of knowing he was on the bus when three of his teammates died,” Cavaliers coach Marques Hagans told the outlet. “That’s not just something you move on from. He’ll always remember those sounds, that smell, that sight for the rest of his life, and that that’s a heavy burden to carry.”
Just one day before the shooting, Brenda Hollins enjoyed dinner with her son after the team’s 37-7 loss to Pittsburgh. He told her about the upcoming field trip, which Perry had encouraged him to go on. They were excited to meet other students on the bus ride.
Brenda said Mike told her he was surprised to see Jones, who he did not know was still enrolled at the university. She said they greeted each other briefly, saying,“‘What’s up?’”
Going forward, Brenda is determined to see her son back on the football field. She told ESPN that he still has one season of eligibility, because he did not play during the 2020 COVID-19 season. Even so, doctors have warned the family that Hollins will need months of rehabilitation.
“We believe God’s report,” Brenda said. “The doctors can tell us anything. But Mike, he is driven. He will be back on the field. He will be carrying someone’s ball. He will be back. … Because he knows God and he knows he’s here for a reason. He was spared for a reason.”
Mike is expected to graduate in December. When the time comes, Brenda says he wants to walk across the stage with his classmates.
“That would be a blessing,” Brenda said. “It’s a blessing because 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.”
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