KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — At a Sunday morning church service, Tiana Carruthers received a $19,200 check to aid her as she recovers from being shot repeatedly during the Kalamazoo-area shooting rampage.
Carruthers, 25, was the first of eight people shot — six of whom were killed — on Feb. 20 as police say gunman Jason Dalton opened fire random people at three locations. She was outside with children at the Meadows Townhomes in Richland Township when Dalton approached. She has been credited with shielding the kids when he opened fire, shooting her multiple times.
Weeks after the shooting, a benefit concert was held in Carruthers’ honor and the community was invited to contribute funds. Sunday, the donations were presented to Carruthers.
After seeing the check, Carruthers broke down in tears.
“These are tears of joy. Believe that,” she said. “No words can let you guys know how much I appreciate everyone in this room.”
Speaking about her medical condition, Carruthers said she’s anxious to get closer to being her old self.
“I just want to walk. I just want to move my arm,” she said. “I’m getting there.”
Carruthers spoke with her mom, daughter and other loved ones standing nearby. The pastor at Galilee Baptist Church in Kalamazoo, where the service was held, said the effort to support Carruthers involved several churches and organizations in the community.
As she prepared to leave the service, Carruthers spoke to 24 Hour News 8 for her first one-on-one television interview.
“There’s not enough thank yous that I could say and I just — it warms me up,” she told 24 Hour News 8. “It just warms me up inside and out; mind, body, and soul. This is part of the healing process that I’m dealing with, and I just think that it’s so beautiful.”
Because of the ongoing investigation, Carruthers has asked not to field questions about what happened the day of the shooting.
She said the community support she has received has been overwhelming. Because of the case’s publicity, she is recognized in the public. She told a story of one well-wisher who recognized her and gave her a “bear hug,” inadvertently causing her to scream out in pain as she is still recovering.
She recalled watching the video feed as the community — mostly strangers — gathered for the benefit concert in her honor.
“It was like an experience I’ve never experienced in my life. It was a feeling — an overwhelming spirit. It was an overwhelming feeling,” Carruthers explained. “I’ve never felt so loved besides from my family. From complete strangers — that just meant the world to me.”
She said her goal Sunday was to show thanks to the community that has shown her so much love in the midst of the tragedy.
“They didn’t have to do this. They didn’t have to do this,” she said emphatically. “They went above and beyond and out of their way to do this.”