JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The mother of one of the victims injured in a mass shooting on Jacksonville's Eastside that left one person dead said she's grateful her son and his girlfriend survived the attack.
Jalen Bryant, 25, and his girlfriend, 30-year-old Holly Manuel, were walking to a Jaguars game Oct. 21 when they were struck by stray bullets just a half-mile from TIAA Bank Field.
The drive-by shooting at the corner of A. Philip Randolph Boulevard and Pippin Street left Manuel with a shattered pelvis and Bryant fighting for his life with five bullet wounds -- three in the chest, one in the arm and one in the hip.
“It shattered the bones and it also severed his carotid artery, and when it did that, there was no blood flow to the bottom of his leg,” Bryant's mother, Nikki Cain, said.
Bryant was rushed to UF Health Jacksonville and had surgery after surgery -- 10 surgeries in 10 days, Cain said.
“There was a lot of dead tissue now in his bloodstream, and it was affecting his kidneys, and they were going to have to amputate his leg to save his life,” Cain said through tears, recalling the ordeal. “I remember looking at my husband and he was crying, and he was like, 'I don’t want to make this decision, because I don’t want my son to hate me.'”
Bryant did have his right leg amputated, and Cain said she waited every night in the hospital for her son to wake up after the lifesaving surgeries.
“I kept feeling, if I leave, he is going to give up, so I stayed,” Cain said. “And when I walked into the room, he said, 'Mama, it’s OK. I am alive. I lost my leg, but I am alive.' And I said, 'Yes, baby, you are alive!' And I thank God for that every day.”
Cain said Bryant, who went home from the hospital the day before Thanksgiving, probably won't walk for another four months and might need another surgery.
“I will never give up on him,” Cain said. “I am OK with having to take care of my baby. I would rather spend the last of my days having to take care of him than having had to bury him.”
Manuel is walking with a walker. Cain has started a GoFundMe account to help pay for medical expenses and to buy a vehicle that is wheelchair-accessible for Bryant.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office released images of cars that might have been involved in the drive-by shooting but no arrests have been announced in the case.
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