PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — The mother of a woman who was shot and killed on I-94 in Portage says she drove by the police scene but had no idea her daughter was involved.
Naya Reynolds, 22, of Kalamazoo, died at the hospital following the shooting.
“I think everyone is in shock because it’s still… it’s unbelievable that it would happen to her,” her mother told News 8 Monday.
The shooting happened around 11 p.m. Friday on I-94 near Oakland Drive. Police said shots were fired from one car into the one Reynolds was in. A pregnant woman and infant who were also in the car and shot were listed in stable condition following surgery. PDPS said the woman’s unborn baby was not hurt.
“I got off work Friday and I actually rode past the crime scene, and I didn’t think anything of it. I actually thought it was the police outside doing a drill or something,” Maya Davis, Reynolds’ mother, said.
She says it wasn’t until 5 a.m. Saturday that she received a call from her son telling her to get to the hospital as soon as possible.
“When you get that call, it’s a call that you never expect as a mom. As a mom, it’s a call that you never want to get,” Davis said.
She said her daughter was the kind of kid parents pray for. She was known for her kindness and nurturing energy.
“We would be driving and she would see a homeless person and say ‘Mom! Stop the car.’ And she would go in her purse and get money and that’s what I want people to know about her. I don’t want people to remember what happened to her. I want them to remember the lives that she impacted,” Davis said.
Davis said after graduating from Kalamazoo Central High School, her daughter went to Western Michigan University. She said Reynolds recently transferred to Grand Valley State University in hopes of pursuing a career in criminal justice.
Members of the WMU community can call the Sindecuse Health Center at 269.387.1850 to set up an appointment for grief counseling.
“We extend our condolences to the families and all those close to Naya … who are especially experiencing the pain of these tragic losses,” WMU President Edward Montgomery wrote in a letter to the campus community. “Processing through grief takes time. As a community, let us lean on each other for needed support now and in the weeks and months ahead.”
Davis said her daughter had a job at a group home for the elderly and also worked with teens. In her spare time, Reynolds would always spend time with her nephews.
Reynolds was also known for her faith in God. Her family called her their prayer warrior. Before her death, Reynolds planned to volunteer alongside her mother at their church’s annual “Stop The Violence” carnival.
Reynolds’ family members say they’re now forced to accept a new reality.
“I have to wake up every morning knowing she’s not here but I have hope that I’ll see her again one day and that’s what I cling to,” Davis said.
She said she would miss her daughter’s morning phone and FaceTime calls.
“Or the text messages out of the blue. I’m really going to miss that,” she continued. “And her laugh. She had the most infectious laugh. Her laugh. Oh my gosh. It was everything.”
Police said Monday they are working to determine exactly what led up to the shooting but believe the shooter targeted the car.
They say they arrested a 42-year-old Kalamazoo man near the scene on unrelated charges after he was seen running away and trying to get into a passing vehicle. They said he is not cooperating with their investigation. Police also say they recovered a gun at the scene that had been reported stolen in 2016.
During interviews with police, witnesses described the suspect vehicle as a small to midsized black SUV. Initially, police were looking for a dark color Pontiac Grand Am. Police said they are no longer looking for the Grand Am.
The victim’s family is urging witnesses to talk to police.
“Speak up. These crimes are not going to get solved unless people have the courage. Have the heart because somebody knows something. Even to the people who did this, I don’t want revenge. I just want justice for my daughter and I’m hoping they have a heart to turn themselves in and they will eventually give themselves over to God themselves,” Davis said.
“I don’t want another mom, another father, another sister, another brother, another friend to go through what my family has gone through these past few days,” she continued. “It’s not fair. (Reynolds) had so much life to live. She had so much to offer and her life was cut short over something so senseless and I still don’t know why.”
— News 8’s Madalyn Buursma contributed to this report.