Bullets have a notorious history for piercing flesh, corroding bones and rupturing bodily organs. These lead rounds turn horrifying nightmares into harsh realities. On the night of Dec. 1, 2009, the unexpected happened.
Danielle Givens, 19, a former Rattler and second-year pharmacy student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College from Brooklyn Park, Minn., was mugged and shot on the new staircase outside of the Gore Education Complex, by one of three hooded black men.
Precisely one year after the shooting, Givens no longer classifies herself as a victim, but a survivor. She’s survived a violent mugging and life-threatening invasive surgery, giving her an entirely new perspective on life, pain, and black people, especially black men.
The memory of the event, however, will always remain with her.
“At around midnight, my boyfriend was walking me back to Paddyfote from Phase III,” said Givens. “I thought I was safe because it was finals week, and all of the students were in their dorms studying.”
In that “safe moment,” three black hooded figures, concealed by cigarette smoke put a gun to her boyfriend’s head.
“I was scared, and I didn’t know what to do,” said Givens. “You’re taught what to do when you’re abducted, but nobody can help you when a gun is pointing toward you’re head.”
Givens immediately started screaming and running away, but turned back to help her boyfriend. As she ran back, she was mugged for her purse.
“He punched me so hard that I fell to the ground, and I was in shock,” said Givens. “He pointed the gun at me, I turned to my side, and that’s when he shot me.”
Givens heard the men take off running, and remembers them moving in the direction of the science labs. Her boyfriend, Bradley Johnson, 19, a second-year industrial engineering student from Tallahassee, immediately ran toward her to help her up. As Johnson put his arm around her, Givens felt a warm rushing sensation, only to realize it was blood.
“I wouldn’t let this affect our relationship,” said Johnson. “I knew it would only make us stronger.”
Though the two are now separated, the mental effects remain with him.
“I’m not on campus late anymore, and I look at hooded people differently,” Johnson said.
He called 911 while carrying Givens, whose blood flowed from her wound and out onto the concrete.
“I cried out for my dad,” said Givens. “I wanted to be back home in Minnesota. I was so weak, and I thought I was going to die.”
An ambulance arrived and rushed her to the hospital. Givens said her doctor told her she was lucky to be alive. If she hadn’t turned on her side when she was shot, the bullet would have hit her heart. Instead, the bullet was lodged in her shoulder blade. However, it was still too close to her heart and lungs to be safely removed. Recovering from the injury was a slow and frustrating process for Givens.
“The doctors washed my wound, and it hurt so bad that I literally had to bite my tongue,” said Givens. “I was forced to lift my arm no matter how bad it hurt, because I didn’t want a paralyzed arm.”
The physical pain was only the beginning of her struggles. She had to transition from the traumatic experience to finish the semester.
“Even though I was shot, I still had to take my finals, and my mind wasn’t there,” Givens said. “This was a struggle for me because I didn’t know how to balance my emotional state with my education.”
Givens still suffers from nightmares, frequent migraines, seizures and an infection caused by the lead from the bullet. The compiling symptoms caused Givens’ doctors to schedule the invasive and dangerous surgery they tried to avoid when she was first shot. The surgery has a 50 percent survival rate, but Givens recovered with minor pain.
The lead, wrapped in tissue with the original blood on it, was immediately sent to forensics at FAMU Police Department. Barbara Millar, a law enforcement officer for FAMUPD,said the case is still under investigation and the three individuals have not been identified.
“When I graduate, I want to start a crime prevention organization that gives away scholarships to victims and witnesses of crimes,” said Givens. “When life throws you struggles, it is not because everyone is against you, or that it’s supposed to happen to you, but it is a test. God is always watching out for me, and I believe that He is the reason that I wasn’t shot in my heart.”