Sheriff: 1st spree victim saved children’s lives

Tiana Carruthers was first of eight people shot in Kalamazoo rampage

Evidence markers show where bullet casings fell when shots were fired at the Meadows Townhomes in Richland Township. (Feb. 21, 2016)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo County sheriff says the first woman wounded in Saturday’s shooting spree acted heroically, protecting her children as shots rang out in their neighborhood.

Tiana Carruthers was shot around 5:45 p.m. Saturday near a playground at the Meadows Townhomes in Richland Township. It was unusually warm that February day.

“I think it was probably 60 degrees an hour before this happened and I can only imagine being home with those children, (deciding) how great it would be to go down to the park,” Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller said.

Witnesses say Carruthers was outside with her children playing when the shooter pulled up in his car.

“The suspect’s activities changed where at some point she decided to tell the children to run and she stayed behind the children and that’s when the suspect opened fire,” Fuller said.

Carruthers was a few feet away from the shooter, who remained in his car, as he fired at least 10 rounds. Witnesses say Carruthers shielded her children from the spray of bullets. She was shot multiple times, but survived.

The victim told police there was a verbal exchange with the shooter right before he shot her. Fuller said the shooter was asking for a woman by another name. Some neighbors said they think that was a ploy to get Carruthers to come closer. Fuller said he doesn’t know if the shooter was actually looking for a specific person.

“I believe that I don’t know exactly what he was doing there,” he said.

What his does know is that there could have easily been more victims.

“I was at the scene,” he said. “You look at the where bullets ended, looking where the victims were and looking where the suspect’s vehicle was, I truly believe that her actions were very heroic, courageous and likely led to the saving of some children’s lives.”

Later in her hospital bed, Carruthers identified the shooter from a police photos.

“Anytime you can have someone point to the person and say, ‘that is the person,’ that’s huge,” Fuller said.

Carruthers, 25, was still at a Kalamazoo hospital recovering on Tuesday. Family members released a statement that read, in part, “We appreciate every prayer and tender thought extended to us.”

Kalamazoo shooting spree victim Tiana Carruthers family statement

Seven other people were shot in the Saturday rampage:

Top, left to right: Dorothy Brown, Barbara Hawthorne and Mary Jo Nye. Bottom, left to right: Mary Lou Nye, Rich Smith and Tyler Smith.
Top, left to right: Dorothy Brown, Barbara Hawthorne and Mary Jo Nye. Bottom, left to right: Mary Lou Nye, Rich Smith and Tyler Smith.

Tyler Smith, 17, and his 53-year-old father, Rich Smith, were gunned down at a Kalamazoo car dealership around 10 p.m.

Less than half an hour later at the Texas Township Cracker Barrel, 60-year-old Mary Jo Nye, 62-year-old Mary Lou Nye, 68-year-old Barbara Hawthorne and 74-year-old Dorothy Brown were killed and 14-year-old Abigail Kopf was gravely injured. Abigail continues to fight for her life.

Suspect Jason Dalton, 45, was arrested early Sunday and charged Monday with 16 crimes, including six counts of murder and two of attempted murder.

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