KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Phillip Marion said he will never forget February 20, 2016. Not just because it was the night of the Kalamazoo Shootings. But it was the night his daughter survived them.
“That day was a shock you know, like something just shock you like 'boom,'” said Marion during an interview. “Everything starts stopping. Everything stopped around me.”
Marion said his heart began beating fast when he got a phone call from Tiana Carruthers saying she’d been shot near her home. Carruthers is a close family friend. Someone he’s known since she was a child. As soon as she called him, he rushed to be by her side.
“Once we made it out there, the sheriff was out there,” he said. “At that time my brain [was] still like 'what’s going on' and the kids.”
Marion’s then 8-year-old daughter Dorjaye was hanging out with Carruthers, her daughter and a few other kids on that warm Saturday afternoon. Marion learned that at around 5:30 p.m., a man approached and opened fire on Carruthers and the kids. However she quickly used her body to shield the kids from the bullets. After the shooting, Carruthers was transported to the hospital and the children were at her neighbors house.
“My heart never stopped beating fast,” said Marion. “Everything stopped. [My] brain started going in a thousand different ways.”
Marion said that day really hit him and his family hard, especially Dorjaye. He’s grateful that everyone survived but life since then for her has been tough. She started going to counseling two months after the shootings happened and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. She’s since seen three different counselors.
“[She's] always sleeping with the light on, never turns the light off,” said Marion about his daughter who’s now 10-years-old and has nightmares about what happened. “She still does to this today.”
Going to school was a challenge too, he said. She didn’t like large crowds of people and loud noises. So she tends to keeps to herself.
“She wouldn’t get on the bus,” said Marion. “She wouldn’t take the bus to school. So we had to transfer her back-n-forth to school.”
Prior to the shootings, Dorjaye was once a vibrant child who loved music and loved to rap. The few times he’s seen her revert back to that person is whenever she hung out with Carruthers who regularly checks in on her.
“She helps out a lot for us,” said Marion about Carruthers whom he calls his niece. “Sometimes she’ll come and get Dorjaye.”
Marion said he’s grateful for all her help and for what she did that night to save all their lives. Since that tragic event, Marion said he’s seen a lot of national coverage focus solely on those who were directly affected by the shootings. However there were a few forgotten survivors like his daughter whose life was altered that night. And his only hope is to get her back to who she was before.
“She has a good spirit, a good personality,” he said. “She’s a loving person.”