Alex Andrews remembers in vivid detail being shot in the face through his kitchen window at his home on Brown Avenue in Athens early on Jan. 19.
He remembers getting up at around 2 that Thursday morning for a snack. He recalls cutting up vegetables. He remembers hearing a sound at the window and turning to see the figure of a man standing outside with a shotgun. He remembers thinking, “I’m about to get shot.”
And then he was. The glass crashed through. The plate of vegetables broke apart. The knife fell out of his hand. Andrews’ left arm went numb, he said in an interview Wednesday morning.
“The buckshot comes flying through and finds its way into nearly every part of my body from the knee up,” he said. “And I’m realizing I’m blind in my left eye, and I’m realizing I have a fractured skull. My jaw is dislocated. My face is immediately starting to swell. And I have two lacerated veins in my jugular. I started bleeding so intensely that within just a few blinks I realize my whole body is starting to ooze red.”
The shooter, as of yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon, remained at large.
Andrews did not fall down from the shot. He made his way to the living room, where two friends were. He tried to tell them to stay out of the kitchen, but couldn’t make himself clear because of the blood in his throat.
“I’m essentially bleeding out from my throat and coughing up large quantities of blood,” he said. But he still tried to push his friends up the stairs, worried that the shooter might come into the house.
As his friends called 911, Andrews waited at the bottom of the stairwell.
“I already made the assumption that I was probably going to die because I was painting the room around me red with the amount of blood that was coming out,” he said. “I stood my ground there for a few minutes.”
Soon a police officer arrived at the back door after doing a perimeter check.
“I finally let my guard down and was completely taken over by the pain,” Andrews recalled.
An ambulance arrived as Andrews began to feel severe cramps throughout his body, causing him to convulse and jerk around, “like Charlie horses all over my body.”
The EMTs got him on a stretcher and into an ambulance, cutting off his clothing to find out where the shot had punctured him. It had gone through his groin, his thighs, his belly, his arms, his chest, his neck, his head, “creating ribbons of destruction,” as he said, also cutting his left eye in half.
Two pieces of shot that tore into his jugular vein were the main reason Andrews ended up being taken by helicopter to St. Mary’s Hospital in Huntington, West Virginia.
“I remember them keeping me conscious as best they could for fear of me going unconscious and what the repercussions would be,” he said. “I kind of partook in watching them cut me up on the table, inserting a catheter and IVs. I had no sensation, but I could see what they were doing.”
Andrews was doing his best to stay conscious, he recalled, because of what might happen if he didn’t. In the helicopter, Andrews said, everything finally went black.
“I remember having this weird – not to be too existential – but this weird thing happen where I was almost spoken to by something,” he said. “Nothing really appeared, but spoken to, where I was given two options of coming here and living with the consequences of everything and doing my best to try to utilize it to inspire and create hope and do hard work for the people around me who need it, or getting a cop-out and going on to another blessed life and starting over again with better odds.”
Andrews chose to stay in this corporeal world, he said, and woke to his mother’s voice, with her face about three inches from his own, surrounded by loved ones.
“I was met with many smiling faces. From the moment I arrived back in my body, it was like I was back. There was no groggy feeling. It was, slam, I’m back. I made that choice and bam, I was there.”
ANDREWS, OWNER AND ARTIST at Thunder Bunny Tattoo Parlor on Stimson Avenue in Athens, had undergone four hours of surgery in Huntington for his injuries, which he said numbered between 500 and 600 intersecting entry wounds on his chest and shoulders and arms. That’s in addition to 30 or 40 exit wounds out his back shoulder area, and 100 to 150 wounds on his face and neck.
The force of the shot broke his nose in multiple places and put several fracture lines in his skull.
Andrews’ mother, Terri Jean of Glouster, has provided public updates on Facebook throughout the past week, and provided further updates and photos to The Athens NEWS this Tuesday and Wednesday.
Andrews had been kept sedated and intubated (with a breathing tube down his throat). When he woke up on Friday, Jan. 20, he wanted the tube out.
After some discussion among doctors about when the tube could be pulled, Jean said, Andrews wrote a note saying, “Don’t discuss; just do it.”
Later she said she’d like to put that on a shirt. “It’s a great motto,” she said.
“It’s a new feeling each day,” Andrews said of his recovery. “It’s got its winding path.”
Andrews’ eye has not yet been removed because he still has some sensitivity to light, he said.
By Saturday afternoon, Jean posted an update that Andrews was out of intensive care and was being transported to another hospital.
Meanwhile, the Athens community began to rally around him by setting up a GoFundMe account for Andrews’ hospital bills at www.gofundme.com/alex-back-the-beast-andrews-fund.
After a few days, Jean said, Andrews stood up and “started to wrap his head around what happened.”
Athens Police Department Chief Tom Pyle said in an email Tuesday that detectives continue to investigate the matter. No arrests had been made as of Wednesday afternoon.
Andrews said that he is already beginning to prepare to tattoo again.
“There are plenty of tattoo artists with one eye, and sometimes when I tattoo I close one of my eyes to get more detailed,” he said. “I’m going to need some time to recover the use of my left arm… As far as being able to tattoo again, I’d have to be blind to stop. I’m 100 percent devoted to my craft. And I’m going to hop right back in the moment I feel comfortable.”
In addition to the GoFundMe campaign, an Alex Andrews Benefit Fund has been established at all area Peoples Bank locations.
“Our priority now is things like covering bills, black-out curtains and window blinds, and covering his salary. Medical bills will be insane – money left over will be applied there,” Jean said.
A benefit has been scheduled for Andrews at Sikorski’s Home Plate in Glouster at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1, and the staff of Thunder Bunny are working with The Union Bar and Andrews’ band, Union Fire, for a “benefit blast” on Monday, Feb. 6, Jean said. A third benefit is also in the works for Texas Roadhouse, and Thunder Bunny will be celebrating its fourth year in business on Feb. 9.
A card drive is also in the works, set up for P.O. Box 52, Glouster, OH 45732, for well-wishers.
Jean said that the support the family has received from the community so far has been “overwhelming,” adding that she believes if people keep talking and keep an ear our, the shooter will be caught.
“It took (Alex) less than a week to rise above it,” she said. “He’s truly a bad ass and I’m proud of him. The shooter will fall down but my kid will rise.”
The Athens Police Department has included the case in its crime solvers program, which offers a $2,000 cash reward for information on crimes that leads to the arrest and indictment of the person or persons responsible.
Anyone with information on this case should contact APD Dets. Filar or Simpson at 740-592-3313. Those with information can also call Crime Solvers Anonymous at 740-594-3331.