“We just roll with it:” 21-year-old talks one year after stray bullet leaves her paralyzed

Olivia Dantzler said her optimism pushes her through this new life of weekly doctor appointments and the struggle to remember she can't yet live it on her own.
Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 6:14 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - (7/22/20) - “It’s not what I wanted in life, but I made it work; and I know it’s gonna be okay,” Olivia Dantzler said.

One year ago, a stray bullet hit her, leaving the 21-year-old paralyzed from the chest down.

The Flushing woman explained she was helping a friend. She drove to pick up the friend’s brother at a home in Flint. As they went to leave, the group was caught in a drive-by shooting.

What impact can one bullet make on a young life?

“It’s kind of like I’ve had two lives, you know,” she said. “I got to live walking; and now, I get to roll with it. And that’s exactly what I do. I just roll -- we just roll with it. And that’s all you can do.”

Dantzler has an extraordinary positive outlook not many people would if their lives were changed with one senseless action.

But she explained, her optimism pushes her through this new life of weekly doctor appointments and the struggle to remember she can't yet live it on her own.

“We have adjusted, and we have to, we do what we have to do; but getting used to it, I don’t know,” Dantzler said.

One year ago, on July 5th 2019, police said Troy Williams and Ashley Jennings shot at a home on South Grand Traverse Street in Flint. They missed whoever their target was, instead shooting at Dantzler's car.

The bullet went through her driver's side window. It hit her in the shoulder and is now lodged in her spine.

She remembers speaking with her Mom at the hospital that night.

“She walked into the ER bay and I was like, you know, I’m paralyzed. And she said, ‘That’s okay, we’re gonna get through it’. And I think, from there, I was okay,” Dantzler said.

The now-21-year-old and her Mom had to move from their two-story home to one that's wheelchair-accessible. She's not driving yet, but is saving money to get hand-controls.

As of right now, with the bullet lodged in her spine, she may never walk again.

Dantzler said her positive attitude doesn't mean she's not angry from time-to-time.

“It’s like, why me, you know, what did I do? I was trying to help out,” she explained. “And then it’s like, you know what, I can feel these emotions but I’m not gonna let it control me.”

As she continues to adjust, Dantzler plans to get a degree in counseling and wants to create a program to educate young people on gun violence.

“By the grace of God I survived and I’m here. And that’s all that matters. I’m going to do something with it,” she added.

Jennings and Williams were bound over for trial in September.

Court records show a date was set; but because of coronavirus restrictions, it was cancelled.

As they wait for the next court hearings, Williams is still in jail, Jennings is out on bond.

Copyright 2020 WJRT. All rights reserved.

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