Blue Ridge Parkway shooting victim recounts attack that killed friend
As her friend lay shot, bleeding and dying near her on an overlook of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Christina Floyd struggled for her own life.
The stranger who had without warning shot Tim Davis, had just fired his shotgun a second time, blasting the 18-year-old Floyd as she instinctively turned her back on the raised gun no more than 12 feet away.
When she turned back -- oblivious to the pain of her pierced lung and pellet-lacerated back -- to face the shooter, he was upon her. Calmly, silently, he grabbed her by the
shoulders and pushed her toward the edge of a cliff.
For Floyd, or for anyone unexpectedly thrown into such a dire situation, it could have ended there.
But she fought back. The Fluvanna County High School senior desperately grabbed at the man's shirt, twisting it and him. As he struggled to toss her over the cliff, she tried to turn the tables: She fought to fling him over first. Locked in a struggle that Floyd worried might end in her death, she fought to survive. And as the fight continued, after her skull had been fractured in two places, after her sun dress had been nearly ripped from her body, her determination to live grew even stronger.
“I thought, 'Some cop is going to tell my mom and friends I'm dead? Hell no!' “ Floyd said Tuesday in the first interview she has given since the April 5 parkway attack.
Floyd said her resolve to not go down without a fight, to resist, is why she is alive today. If she had not fought, she said, “there would have been two funerals.”
A slender 5-foot-6, with green eyes and blond hair and no trace of a combative disposition, she speaks in a near whisper and bites her nails pensively. She hopes to attend Ferrum College and major in psychology. She admires her high school teachers. In many of the photos of herself she posts on her Facebook page, she is making a goofy face. ("I can't really not do it,” she said. “I'm pretty happy all the time.")
“She's a very outgoing, open person, fun-loving and friendly,” summed up her mother, Jennifer Haley. “She's not really a fighter.”
Living with her mother and 16-year-old brother, Scotty, in the rural Palmyra section of Fluvanna County, Floyd said she spends her leisure time hanging out with her close group of friends and socializing on Facebook. Occasionally they trip into nearby Charlottesville for more cityesque adventures.
Two years ago, Floyd said, she volunteered to work the summer at radio station WNRN in Charlottesville. That's where she met Davis, known to listeners as DJ Prolapse. Davis was “sweet, happy, nice to everyone and honest, really honest,” and he showed her the ropes of the radio business, Floyd said. “We hung out most of the time and kind of goofed off.”
After the summer, the two occasionally met up to shoot the breeze, to talk about life or music. While Floyd likes everything, Davis was discriminating in his tastes, she said.
On April 5, after swapping text messages the day before, the two met up because Davis wanted to spend a little time away from Charlottesville. Floyd picked him up in her green Honda, and the two drove west, up Afton Mountain to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
After driving up and down the parkway for more than an hour, Floyd said, they parked at the small Rock Point Overlook, 10 miles south of Interstate 64 in Augusta County. They chose it because it had unobstructed views of the coming sunset.
There, they sat on the wooden railing, Floyd to Davis' right, and chatted. After 45 minutes, a small car pulled up. Davis, 27, thought the driver was an elderly woman and asked Floyd what an elderly woman was doing on the parkway alone. Floyd laughed, but soon the two forgot about the car, parked two and a half car lengths away, and went back to their conversation.
Fifteen minutes passed. Then, Floyd recalled, her ears were suddenly ringing and she heard a loud “pop.” Confused, she looked to Davis on her left. He had blood on his face, his arms were moving and he was groaning. Still confused, Floyd turned around. Behind her she saw the barrel of a shotgun pointing at her and Davis from the driver's side window of the small car, she said.
A man stepped out of the car and began to run at her. Just as Davis collapsed beside her, the stranger raised the gun and fired directly at Floyd, she said. She turned away, perhaps ducking as well, and the blast struck her in the back. “My adrenaline was rushing. I didn't feel anything,” she said.
The next seconds were a blur. The stranger grabbed her by the shoulders, she said, and his shotgun dropped to the ground — maybe she had knocked it out of his hands. As he pushed her toward the cliff and a drop of more than 100 feet, she clutched frantically at his shirt and tried to twist him to the cliff's edge. The stranger wriggled free of the shirt and, now, naked from the waist up, continued to try to throw her off the cliff.
“I asked, 'Why are you doing this? Why are you doing this?' “ she recalled. “He said, 'Cause I'm crazy.' His eyes were, like, empty. He didn't seem angry or anything.”
At last the stranger grabbed Floyd by the hair and flung her over the edge of the precipice. She landed on a ledge no more than 6 feet down and scrambled up the side, toward the parking lot. But the stranger grabbed her again. And again, the two struggled to see which one would be tossed over the edge.
“I kept whispering to myself, 'What the [heck]!' “ Floyd said. “I kept thinking, this is crazy, what's going on? This isn't happening.” By now, her sundress had been ripped and hung loosely from her hips. Blood ran down her back and arm. The stranger, whom she thinks she had scratched, knocked her down. He then began picking up rocks “the size of a small cucumber” and hurled a half dozen or so at her as she leaned on her left arm, dazed.
The rocks fractured her skull. A finger bone on her right hand snapped as she tried to block the stones. The stranger turned around and calmly began to walk back to where his shotgun lay on the ground, Floyd said. “I guess he thought I couldn't get up.” But she did. Clutching her dress to her body, she ran from the overlook and north onto the parkway. A black pickup truck heading south immediately came into view and the passenger, a woman, had a look of shock on her face as Floyd rushed up.
Then, the woman apparently saw the stranger behind Floyd with the gun in his hand, Floyd said. The woman threw open the car door and immediately hurled herself into the back seat. Floyd jumped in and the driver, a man, put the car in reverse and backed up the parkway a good distance before turning the front of the vehicle northward.
An ambulance met the pickup on the road, and Floyd was taken to the University of Virginia Medical Center.
The last time Floyd saw Davis at the overlook, he was still by the wooden rail where he collapsed. He was later found down at the bottom of the precipice. He died four days later, the same day Floyd was released from the hospital.
Augusta sheriff's investigators, meanwhile, say they have found the attacker: Ralph Leon Jackson, a 56-year-old garage worker from Stuarts Draft. He faces a charge of murder, and a jury will likely have to decide if he is the man who shot Davis and Floyd. He is scheduled to appear in court June 17 for a preliminary hearing.
Floyd, the 10 staples in her head now removed, along with the cast from her finger, is back in school. The eight or so pellet wounds in her back and arm have turned pink. The pellets beneath her skin, Floyd said, will eventually pop out by themselves.
“I didn't really think ahead,” she said, contemplating her actions during the fight. “It was one second at a time, one second at a time. I know there's nothing else I could have done.”
-- The Roanoke Times
Washington Post Editors
April 28, 2010; 10:23 AM ET
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