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The mother of a University of Virginia football player, whose son survived a deadly bus shooting that killed three of his teammates this week, recalled the terrifying moment when her son came face to face with the suspected gunman.
Brenda Hollins, the mother of University of Virginia Cavaliers running back, Mike Hollins, told ESPN her son initially mistook gunshots for balloons popping as he rode a charter bus back from a campus field trip on Monday.
She said her son yelled at the bus driver to pull over the moment he realized the sound he’d heard was gunshots after locking eyes on the alleged shooter, former Virginia football player Christopher Darnell Jones Jr.
After the bus came to a stop, the Louisiana mother said her son bolted towards the doors along with two other students. However, after exiting the bus, Mike Hollins quickly observed no one else had followed.
Instead of escaping, Hollins’ mothers says he turned back in an attempt to alert the rest of the bus’ passengers and told the two other students to run.
“He said, 'Mom, I went back,” Brenda Hollins told ESPN. “'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.'"
Seconds later, Hollins inadvertently entered Jones’ crosshairs. As the Virginia running back stepped foot back onto the bus, he came face-to-face with Jones, who was pointing a pistol at him. Hollins, who turned and tried sprint away, was later shot in the back.
"The only thing he remembers is he tried to turn, but he saw him lift the gun," Brenda Hollins said. "He felt his back get hot and he ran."
Mike Hollins ultimately ran to safety and found refuge in nearby parking garage, whereupon the varsity football player observed a bullet protruding from his abdomen.
"He got afraid that if he ran too far into the parking garage, no one would find him and he would die," Hollins’ mother explained.
Hollins was ultimately rescued and rushed to hospital by emergency medical responders.
Lavel Davis Jr., 20, of Dorchester, South Carolina; D’Sean Perry, 22, of Miami, Florida; and Devin Chandler, 21, of Huntersville, North Carolina were killed in the attack. All three, University of Virginia Cavalier teammates, died from gunshot wounds to the head, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner confirmed this week, the Associated Press reported Friday.
Marlee Morgan, another student who was wounded in the bus shooting, was hospitalized and is expected to recover, per ESPN.
Authorities haven’t specified a motive in the brazen shooting.
Brenda Hollins, whose family is still reeling from the attack, believes her son’s heroic actions ultimately prevented further student fatalities.
"His classmates are grateful for him because they said he saved their lives," 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."
She added: "[It] didn't surprise me... It would surprise me if he didn't. That's who Mike is, so it didn't surprise me."
Tony Elliott, the head coach for the Cavaliers, also applauded Hollins’ actions, noting he, too, wasn’t shocked by the young running back’s apparent bravery.
"It's the character that he possesses," Elliott told ESPN. "That act is in you before you ever get to that moment. One of the things we talked about in his program is working towards becoming champion men. We talk about heroes vs. zeroes. And guys who set out to be heroic often fail, but it's the common guy that does what he's supposed to do in those adverse moments that becomes a hero. It's the epitome of who he is."
A memorial service will be held for Davis, Perry and Chandler on Saturday at the University of Virginia’s campus.
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