College students help save man following accidental gun shot

Photo by Melisa Smith.

JOHNSTON COUNTY – Four college students from Langston University were at the right place at the right time to help save a life at the Blue River during Spring Break.

On Monday evening, the students were hiking along the river Hughes Crossing, spending time away from campus for a change of scenery.

Soli Pannell, a nursing student at Langston, said the group was near one of the many falls areas when they heard a gunshot.

“Just a single gunshot, no screams or calls for help or anything like that,” Pannell said. “So, we didn’t really think too much of it and continued on. We ended up hiking back up the hillside and had ended up getting passed by the Game Warden who had his lights on, but he ended up driving past the area where the accident accidentally happened.

“Asher had turned and saw the guy laying on the ground and that’s when his son started blaring the horn, so Asher grabbed me and we ran over to the guy and assessed the situation, assessed his consciousness, started putting tourniquets on his wounds and putting pressure on the open wound.”

Asher Bellavigna is also a nursing student at Langston. A graduate of Ardmore High School in 2021, it was his family at the river the students were stopping by to see.

“There wasn’t a lot of panic,” Bellavigna said. “There was a sense of urgency, but not a sense of panic. So after we had assessed and everything, we’re keeping the man talking to make sure that—we follow something called the ABCs, which is airways, breathing, and circulation. He had an open airway and he was breathing. He was sitting there talking to us the whole time, trying to figure out how exactly did it happen. He was telling us his name, things of that nature.”

Photo provided.

They were still working with the man on their own, as the Game Warden had driven past the point of the accident. That was where another of the students stepped up.

So, not long after we had come up, we’re interacting with him; we told Jalani to get the Game Warden as he had drove past before. So Jalani Doolin, a psychology student, took off running to go and get a hold of him.

“He was full on sprinting,” Pannell said.

Pannell and Bellavigna used some towels from the campsite and made a tourniquet. They were putting pressure on a spot near the kneecap.

“For clarification, the guy who suffered the injuries had the gun in his upper-left jacket pocket,” Pannell said. “I think he had ended up saying that he had stumbled and the gun had fallen out of his pocket, hit a rock that he was by in just the right way. That’s what ended up triggering it, and it shot up into his left kneecap and traveled diagonally across his body and ended up in his upper-right chest cavity.”

Mykah Sellers, a biology student, was helping in other ways.

“While they were doing all of that, I was just talking to his son,” Sellers said. “His son was fairly calm for a 12-year-old that had just seen his daddy get shot.

“They had a dog, too. So, I was talking over to him. And then when Jalani came from sprinting up the hill, he was talking to the son with me. We were doing that and waiting for EMS and everybody else to show up.”

The man was eventually airlifted to a hospital in Texas and released on Wednesday in good condition. Pannell and Bellavigna shared about what the experience meant to them.

“My biggest takeaway is still a lot of shock, obviously, and glad we were all in the right place at the right time, knowing everything happens for a reason, of course, even reasons that we might not understand.

“One of the biggest takeaways that I did recognize, that Asher and I did, was of course getting to the guy, but before you even perform anything, you’ve got to keep yourself safe first. We checked the surrounding area, we both asked where the gun was located, as it had already misfired and we didn’t want any other accidents happening. We made sure the gun was put away already and put up in a safe location before continuing anything.

“But overall, just still in a lot of shock personally, but glad we were there and able to help and that things didn’t go a different way, a lot worse way that it could have gone if we weren’t there.”

Bellavigna said it was a confirmation to him that he really did want to go into the ER and working with trauma.

“It was exciting—not in the sense that someone was hurt, but in the sense that I could have been there to help as a first responder in situations like that. I’ve kind of daydreamed a lot about, ‘What would I have done in a situation, if I come up on somebody who was injured like that or had been shot, how would I react? How would my emotions be? Am I going to be in shock or panicking?’ Things of that nature.

“So for me, it was really fulfilling, I suppose, in a way that this is something I want to do, and I felt very accomplished after. It took some time to process all of it. I’m still wrapping my head around it. I’ve found myself thinking about it a lot, just the situation as a whole, but overall I feel good about it. I’m glad that I could be that person there to help somebody in that situation.”

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