Mother: Teen who survived shootings ‘strong-willed,’ walking

This image provided by the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office shows Jason Dalton of Kalamazoo County. Dalton was arrested early Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016 in downtown Kalamazoo following a massive manhunt after several victims were shot at random. (Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office via AP)


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — The mother of a 14-year-old girl who survived a series of random shootings in southwestern Michigan that left six dead believes her daughter “willed herself back” after doctors called a time of death.

Vicki Kopf said she was already discussing the process of donating the organs of her daughter, Abigail, but she heard a faint heartbeat. Several hours later, Kopf said, she felt the teen squeeze her hand.

Abigail was shot in the head when four family friends were fatally shot Feb. 20 in the Cracker Barrel parking lot near Kalamazoo.

“I think she has a lot of spitfire in her, and I think she just willed herself back,” Kopf told the Battle Creek Enquirer (http://bcene.ws/1RsgfNS ) for a story published Thursday. “Because she was not ready to go yet, and she’s got many more things that she wants to do. I don’t know if I can say it’s a miracle. I think she’s just one strong-willed child, that ‘I’m not finished yet.’ And she’s gonna finish what she started.”

Kopf said her daughter was introduced to musical and theater productions by Barbara Hawthorne, a family friend the teen has called “Grandma Barb.” Hawthorne would take Abigail to shows in Kalamazoo, as she had done the night of the rampage that left the 68-year-old and three others dead in their cars outside the restaurant.

Kopf said Abigail, who has undergone brain surgery and remains hospitalized in fair condition, walked Wednesday with assistance. Doctors say that with rehabilitation, they expect she could be “very close to functional, if not entirely functional,” said Kopf’s husband, Gene.

Her parents are loath to call it a miracle, but Gene Kopf settles on another word: “fortunate.” Vicki Kopf said she can’t wait to experience Abigail’s “sass and spunk” again.

Abigail was one of two people to survive the Kalamazoo-area shootings: The other is Tiana Carruthers, 25, whose condition was upgraded to fair. Carruthers, who was shot outside an apartment complex, was the first in a series of victims that evening.

A judge on Thursday ordered Jason Dalton to undergo a mental competency exam. He’s charged with murder and attempted murder in the shootings outside the restaurant, apartment complex and car dealership. Authorities say he carried out the shootings in between driving for Uber.

Investigators say Dalton didn’t know the victims. They still are trying to determine a motive.

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