HOLMBERG: 1997 gunshot victim picking up cans after surviving drive-by shooting

Posted at 11:47 PM, Aug 16, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-17 00:36:07-04

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR)- December 26, 1997. Somebody firing an AK-47-style rifle and a pistol through a car window opens fire on a two-block stretch of First Avenue, triggering off about 70 rounds.

Five people were shot during the battle-like drive-by. Two people were killed. One of the homicide victims had a rifle bullet rip through the bulletproof vest he was wearing. Another was hit in the leg and bled to death.

It was the bloody ‘90s. The deadliest time in Richmond since the Civil War. More than 1,100 people were slain during those ten years.

Michael Holman was walking down the street with a young woman that cold, day-after-Christmas night. He was hit in the shoulder and leg but survived. A bullet taken from his leg was fired from an AK-47, according to police reports at the time.

Holman, now on disability, recalls riding in the ambulance, worrying that he might lose his leg and fuming that medics cut off his brand-new boots during their search for his wounds. The bullet shattered the upper part of his femur bone in leg. “That’s why I walk with a limp,” he says.

No one was convicted of the shooting, although one young man was arrested and charged. Michael said he didn’t see who shot him.

We caught up with Michael Holman, now a father of two (a 3-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy) while he was out collecting aluminum cans on the streets of Richmond. He says he’s not making much – less than $20 a day -  “but it beats sitting around at home.”

View this post on Instagram

Mark Holmberg and I followed this bike called Optimus for about 2 hrs today. A disabled gentleman named Mike uses it to pick up recyclable cans. His story at 11.

A post shared by Tim Hawkins (@photoghawkins) on

You may have seen him riding his unusual bicycle through the streets and alleys of Richmond. A friend welded up a train-like cart attached to his bicycle, which he named Optimus after the “Transformers” character. Michael also calls it his “Get-it Machine.”

I wrote about that drive-by shooting in a front-page story for the Richmond Times-Dispatch back in 1997.

Some 15 years later, CBS-6 photographer Tim Hawkins and I followed Michael and he rolled though the Oregon Hill neighborhood.

Watch his story, and hear how he feels about the person who shot him, in our video report.