Tiana Carruthers was watching several children, one of them her own, outside her apartment building on Saturday evening when a man approached. He asked a question. Then he started shooting.
The 25-year-old mum yelled for the kids to run fast to the nearest home as she was hit several times by the gunshots.
Local police credit her with saving the children. Carruthers also survived but was seriously wounded. A relative said she will need multiple surgeries and won't be able to walk for months.
Carruthers' grandmother, Phoenix Windwalker, reached at her Florida home Tuesday afternoon, said she's proud of her.
"She would protect children if they need protecting, yes. For that, she is a hero and I'm proud she did that," Windwalker said. "If she had not, those children would have been dead."
The details of the exchange that began the nearly five-hour killing spree remain fuzzy. But Kalamazoo County, Mich., Sheriff Richard Fuller told a local TV station that Carruthers was with the playing children when alleged shooter Jason Dalton drove up and fired several rounds at them.
Dalton, an Uber driver, would then shoot another seven people at random, killing six, apparently between picking up passengers.
"I'd like to make it clear to everybody that I think her actions were very courageous, she put herself between the shooter and the children and made the children run as fast as they could," Fuller told Western Michigan's Fox 17.
He said they were just kids playing outside and enjoying the nice weather.
Joi Coleman, 12, told WWMT that Dalton had asked, "Have you seen Mazie?" It was unclear whom he was referring to. Carruthers said no and asked if she could help him, Joi said. Then, with what seems like little warning, he pulled out his gun and started to shoot.
The children ran to safety and were able to call the police while Carruthers sustained her serious injuries.
Her uncle, Keoki Carruthers, 49, who lives in Texas, said Carruthers is recovering from her second surgery and will need to have more. He said the bullets shattered her femur and collar bone, and he thinks there were fragments in her liver. He has heard it will be many months before she can walk again.
Keoki Carruthers described her as outgoing and a lover of music. She's an aspiring rap singer, he said.
Windwalker said Carruthers' 7-year-old daughter witnessed the horrific scene.
"Children shouldn't see their parents hurt like that. They're not in a war zone, They're not in a combat," Windwalker said. "That is trauma."
Windwalker said Carruthers is a good mother who "wanted everything to be better so she could give her daughter better."
"She's a good little girl," she said of her granddaughter. "I still call her my little girl."