A Chicago woman says she’ll never forget the day her friend lost his life trying to save hers when a teen gunman opened fire on them nine years ago. Now, she’s doing all she can to pay it forward and honor her friend’s memory.
Tiara Reed recounted that fateful day, May 10, 2007, when she and a group of friends boarded a city bus in search of some after-school fun.
“It was 85 degrees that day,” Reed told theGrio. “In Chicago, we never have 85 degrees in May. I think the whole school was excited and was like, ‘Oh, let’s go outside, let’s do something!”
The then 16-year-old and her friends were on their way when another teen boarded the bus and randomly began shooting. Reed and four others passengers were struck, theGrio reports. The Chicago teen said she could very well have died that day if it wasn’t for her friend Blair Holt, who was sitting next to her and shielded her from the bullets.
Reed was shot in the foot but survived to tell the story. Holt wasn’t so lucky — he died later that day.
“His life ended too soon,” Reed told theGrio of her slain friend, who was an honor student. “He was a wonderful, wonderful person. Blair was [friends with everyone]. All of us started school together, everyone — all of us — were was supposed to [graduate] together, but we didn’t.”
Nine years have passed since her friend’s death and Reed is doing everything she can to repay Holt for his ultimate sacrifice. According to the theGrio, Reed now holds a master’s degree in criminal justice and is employed as a criminal analyst researcher for DuPage County Courts in Illinois. She said her goal isn’t just to earn a Ph.D. in social work but to also become an FBI agent.
“I like to be there to help my own people,” Reed said. “I like to be able to help African-American citizens — just someone who knows the law and can actually go out and give a helping hand.”
Reed is well on her way to fulfilling her dreams, especially after she was able to snag an internship with the Chicago Police Department a few year ago. It’s unsurprising she was brought on by none other than Ronald Holt, Blair Holt’s father, who serves as Commander and Executive Officer of the CPD’s Community Relations Division.
“I’m very happy for Tiara,” Holt said. “I’m very proud of her because I think she is moving in the right direction and I think that her cause is not just for her but as a remembrance and a legacy of Blair.”
Since his son’s death, Holt said he has dedicated his life to speaking out against gun violence and gang activity. The Chicago Tribune reported that the urban city has seen almost 487 homicides and more than 2,800 people shot so far this year. August stood to be the city’s deadliest month in 20 years with a total of 78 homicides.
Reed said she continues to fight for justice everyday, citing the premature death of her friend as inspiration behind her passion for equal justice under the law.
“It changed me because before this, before that I never even thought about furthering my education past a high school diploma,” she said. “So, just going through a tragedy, it basically woke me up. It’s real life and it made me strive and go harder everyday.”
As for Holt’s killer, 18-year-old Michael Pace, a judge sentenced him to 100 years behind bars in 2009, NBC Chicago reported. Holt was not the gunman’s intended target, a rival gang member was.
In 2015, Pace’s sentence was thrown out by an appeals court and a new sentencing hearing was ordered.