LAWRENCE, Ind. — A man is in the hospital still fighting for his life one week after he was shot in the head while working an overnight shift at a gas station in Lawrence.
Family said 22-year-old Tavaris “TJ” Hall Jr., remained heavily sedated and on a ventilator Sunday, but was continuing to show small signs of hope and progress.
“He’s a fighter. He refuses to give up,” said TJ’s mother, Brandy Hall. “He’s started making a little progress, but he still has his days, his ups and downs.”
“He is moving his right side, he’s kind of opening his eyes a little bit when he feels like it,” said Brandy.
The shooting happened Sunday morning at the Thornton’s gas station in the 7000 block of Pendleton Pike. According to the Lawrence Police Department, investigators are still working to find out who is responsible and what led up to the shooting.
Police called the shooting ‘very tragic’ and said it appeared the victim didn’t really have any time to react. The person walked in and began shooting, said Lawrence police deputy chief, Gary Woodruff.
One week after the shooting, family, friends, community members, police, chaplains and clergy came together at the still-closed gas station for a prayer vigil in TJ’s honor as his fight continues.
At the conclusion of the vigil, balloons were released with messages of encouragement, prayer and support for TJ written on them.
“Knowing that people know who he is and know that he didn’t deserve this and praying over him really is helpful,” said TJ’s fiancée, Eboni Williams. “I really hope that people just keep watching over him praying over him and that if he does hear it and like, he knows people are out there for him.”
The couple welcomed their first child into the world less than two weeks before TJ was shot. Family said that he would have been at home with his fiancée and newborn the morning of the shooting, but instead he picked up a shift to help at the gas station.
“It’s more exciting knowing the progress he’s making, knowing that he’s closer to coming home and holding his baby and talking to him again,” said Williams.
“It’s scary to know that he was here one day perfectly fine and now he’s laying there scared because he don’t know what’s going on,” said Brandy.
According to his family, TJ was less than an hour away from the end of his shift when police were called to the gas station for a report of a person who had been shot. It was a customer who discovered TJ had been injured in the shooting.
“To the lady who found my baby, I truly from the bottom of my heart want to say thank you because if it had not been for you, I probably would not even have my son here,” said Brandy. “He laid there seven minutes before she found him. That seven minutes could’ve been the end of his life, but he fought through that and she save my baby’s life.”
TJ’s family said they are overwhelmed by the support from the community and even strangers who have reached out and offered a prayer during this difficult time.
“We’re here to embrace them, to lean on them, to walk with them through this journey,” said Reverend Charles Harrison, board director of Indy Ten Point and senior pastor at Barnes United Methodist Church. “We want to be here to support them as a community during this very difficult time in their life.”
Harrison was at Sunday night’s vigil after having the opportunity to speak with TJ’s family in the days prior.
“I had a chance to pray with the family. Better news, you know, TJ was showing some improvement so that was better news for the family,” said Harrison.
“I appreciate everyone. I appreciate the reverend that came by and prayed over us and I just appreciate everyone’s prayers on top of that,” said Williams.
Brandy added, “Reverend Harrison — he’s definitely amazing. I can honestly say he didn’t hesitate to reach out, he didn’t hesitate to help.”
TJ’s family has also spoken with the sister of Marcy Birnell, who reached out after learning of TJ’s story. Birnell was permanently injured in 2011 when she was shot in the head while working an overnight shift at Village Pantry in the 1400 block of W. 86th Street on Indianapolis’ north side.
“Just to know from somebody else her sister still here, still fighting every day, it’s a miracle,” said Brandy.
Brandy said hearing Birnell’s story and talking with her family has been encouraging and inspiring as they prepare to venture down an unknown road on TJ’s path to recovery.
Brandy said she plans to document each moment, each news story and milestone and show it to him so he will be able to someday look back and see how far he’s come.
Until he is able to talk again, his family said they’re going to keep talking to him and letting him know they’re in this fight with him.
“I always tell him I’m proud of him and even before all of this happened, I’ve always told him I was proud of him with any little accomplishment he ever made,” said Williams.
“He could’ve gave up the day he got shot, he could’ve gave up and been like I’m just not gonna fight,” said Brandy. Except, he didn’t.
“He’s a fighter. He refuses to give up.” she said. “He has a son that is waiting for him to come home, fiancée that is waiting for him to come home and I’m definitely waiting on my baby to come home.”
His family said they will never stop fighting for justice until the person responsible is behind bars.
“I want justice for him,” said Williams. “The fact that we know he didn’t deserve it is why we are pushing so hard.”
“We won’t stop fighting. We’re just gonna keep going until justice gets served,” said Brandy.
Lawrence police released a photo of a person they are seeking information on in connection to the shooting.
The investigation into the shooting remains ongoing.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 317-262-8477 (TIPS), where you will remain anoynmous.
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