UVA RB Mike Hollins recounts deadly bus shooting through mom

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — When a gunman began shooting passengers on a charter bus returning from a school trip to the University of Virginia Sunday night, Cavaliers running back to Mike Hollins initially thought it was balloons that burst.

Hollins then saw the suspected shooter, former Virginia walk-on football player Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., and yelled at the driver to stop the bus. Hollins and two other students ran off the bus, but he soon found that no one was following them.

Hollins, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, told the two students to keep walking, but he went back to the bus to help others, according to his mother, Brenda Hollins.

“His classmates are grateful to him because they said he saved their lives,” Brenda Hollins told ESPN on Thursday. “He got off the bus first and told two of his classmates to run and he walked back.

“He said, ‘Mom, I went back. I had to do something. I wanted to bang on the windows because nobody else got off the bus.’ He said, ‘I wanted to bang on the windows. I wanted to get on the bus and tell them to get on and off.’”

But as Mike got to the first step of the bus, he encountered Jones, who Mike said had a gun pointed at him. Mike said he turned to run and Jones shot him in the back.

“The only thing he remembers is that he tried to turn around, but he saw him raise the gun,” Brenda said. “He felt his back getting hot and he ran.”

According to Brenda, Mike said he ran to a parking garage and pulled his shirt up. He saw a bullet sticking out of his stomach.

“He was afraid that if he ran too far into the parking garage, nobody would find him and he would die,” Brenda said.

Mike stopped and a medical student who was on the bus helped him until emergency services arrived.

Virginia football players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry were killed in the shooting. Another student, Marlee Morgan, was also shot and is believed to be in good condition.

Hollins might have avoided getting shot if he hadn’t gotten back to the bus. His mother is not surprised by his actions that night.

“Didn’t surprise me,” Brenda said. “I’d be surprised if he didn’t. This is Mike, so it didn’t surprise me.”

Jones, who was a walk-on player on the Virginia football team in 2018, was charged with triple counts of second-degree murder and using a firearm in the commission of a felony. Prosecutors have also charged him with two counts of malicious assault and additional weapons-related charges in connection with the shooting of Hollins and Morgan. He is being held without bail in a Charlottesville jail.

According to Commonwealth Attorney James Hingeley, a passenger on the bus told police that Jones was aiming at people and not shooting indiscriminately. A witness also told police that Jones shot Chandler in his sleep.

Brenda said she forgave Jones for what he did.

“I already have,” she said. “I had to heal so I could help my son. I mean I have no choice. I have to, and then I have to move on to help my baby.”

Mike had emergency surgery Sunday night and another surgery Tuesday to assess damage to his kidneys and abdomen. Brenda said he was taken out of the intensive care unit, removed from a ventilator and walked for the first time on Wednesday.

“He’s recovering,” Brenda said. “Mentally and physically, he’s struggling. He doesn’t know why everything happened, why he was shot once, why he’s here and not his friends.”

Brenda said doctors wanted her to wait until after Mike’s second surgery to tell him that Chandler, Davis and Perry were killed. When Mike was intubated and unable to speak, he asked about his teammates by writing their names on a dry-erase board.

“We had to tell him we didn’t have any information,” Brenda said. “We told him that due to the seriousness of the situation, it was confidential and we could not get any information. I don’t think he believed us. He threw up his hands and had that look on his face and I know he said, “Why? What do you mean by that?”

“We couldn’t tell him because we needed his vitals to stay where they were because he needed surgery. They didn’t want any complications.”

Immediately after Mike recovered from his second surgery, his family broke the devastating news that his teammates had left.

“He was waiting,” Brenda said. “Right after they removed the ventilator, I heard him say, ‘Thanks, Doc.’ I hadn’t heard him speak, so it was just a blessing to hear his voice. As soon as we walked in, that was his question, ‘Where’s D’Sean?’ He knew it. My daughter was closest to him and he looked at her. She shook her head. She said, ‘He’s gone.’

“Mike’s scream was so deep, it seemed to come from his soul. It was like a scream I had never heard in my life before. He was so deep. His scream 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. At that moment it was like being alone. We were there but he was alone.

Mike Hollins and Perry, a junior from Miami, were particularly close. Brenda said her son said, “Mom, I don’t know how to live without him.”

“Mike, you’re going to live for her,” Brenda said, she told him. “You will live for him.”

Brenda had seen her son the day before the shooting. She took part in Virginia’s 7:37 loss to Pittsburgh at Scott Stadium on November 12, in which Mike had eight carries for 23 yards. They had dinner together after the game, and then she flew back to Baton Rouge on Sunday.

Over dinner Mike had talked about how excited he was about the trip to Washington DC. He wasn’t a student on the African American Playwrights course; He had been encouraged by Perry to take part in the field trip.

Brenda said Mike talked about how he wished they could have driven their own car to see the play about Emmett Till, but Perry encouraged him to take the bus. They were happy to meet other students who were on the trip.

Brenda said Mike told her he didn’t know Jones, 22, who is still enrolled in classes in Virginia. Mike said he interacted with Jones at one point on the trip, with each of them saying to the other, “What’s up?”

When Brenda’s phone rang around 10:40 p.m. Sunday night, she recognized a number in the Charlottesville area code and feared the worst. A doctor told her that Mike had been shot and was undergoing emergency surgery. His father, Mike Hollins, lives in Fairfax, Virginia and Brenda’s mother is from Portsmouth, Virginia. They were able to reach UVA Medical Center early Monday morning; Brenda arrived later that day.

“I was devastated,” Brenda said. “As I was walking into his room, the first thing I saw was his feet and they didn’t move. And then I hear the machines and I just see him lying there. He was on the ventilator. The worst thing I could have ever imagined happening in the world.”

Doctors have told Brenda that Mike will need months of rehabilitation during his recovery. He won’t be able to lift anything for three months. She said he was determined to return to the football field. He has at least one season left; He did not play in any games during the 2020 season, which was disrupted by COVID-19.

“We believe God’s record,” Brenda said. “The doctors can tell us anything. But Mike, he’s driven. He’ll be back on the field. He’ll carry someone’s ball. He’ll come back. … Because he knows God and he knows he’s from a is here for a specific reason. He was spared for a specific reason.”

Mike is expected to graduate from Virginia in December. His mother said he had to write four papers to meet the degree requirements. He is determined to walk the final 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 misses them. And that’s why he’s determined and when he graduates, he’s going to leave.”

https://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/35047368/uva-rb-hollins-recounts-virginia-shooting-events-mom UVA RB Mike Hollins recounts deadly bus shooting through mom

Emma Bowman

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