HOLMBERG: Hero girl talks about the drive-by that almost killed her 15 years ago

Posted at 10:33 PM, Aug 29, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-30 00:48:37-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- So how’s this for a rather freaky coincidence?

I was at the double-shooting at 4:30 Thursday afternoon in Mosby Court housing project starring some young maniacs fired some 20 shots – at each other, I was told - on a playground. A 6-year-old girl got hit in the leg.

Standing there, listening to the frustration and revulsion of neighbors over the recklessness of it all, I remembered a similar shooting in Gilpin Court housing project back in the '90s that starred a little girl hero.

It was a drive-by. Some total freaks in a Lincoln idling south on St. Paul Street at W. Coutts opened fire with a high-capacity, high-powered rifle.

Four people were wounded, including an 8-year-old girl who was hit in the arm and chest when she ran out and grabbed her beloved 2-year-old neighbor to protect her from the hail of bullets.

Even though bullet fragments broke ribs and punctured a lung, Tearra Nicholas was able to carry little Shaneise Earley to safety.

I wrote that story for the Times-Dispatch and interviewed the hero at VCU Medical Center. Tearra told me she didn’t even know she was shot until she had laid Shaneise down and saw all the blood on the floor.

“I looked at my clothes,’ she said then. “They were red. It hurted.”

Police Chief Jerry Oliver cited Tearra for her heroism. She was nominated for a national lifesaving award.

The date of that shooting?

August 29, 1998. Exactly 15 years ago to the day from Thursday’s shooting.

Pretty wild, eh?

I wondered what became of that little hero with a brave smile and luckily found her at her new place in South Richmond.

Tearra Nicholas is 23 now. She has two young children. Her beloved mother died a few years back. She says she’s getting by.

And she’s still a sweetheart. You’ll see that if you watch our video report with this story.

I don’t believe anyone was ever prosecuted for that shooting 15 years ago. Police said Thursday night they’re trying to identify the suspects in the latest one that came precisely 15 years later.