Survivor recalls horror of being shot in head

St. Rose performer lends helping hand to best friend after shooting

When Brian Holiman of St. Rose took to the stage in Detroit, performing under his moniker of BJ SoCole, he couldn’t have imagined the shock to his system he was about to endure later that night.

Holiman received a phone call that delivered awful — and potentially devastating — news: his sister-in-law, Mea Vaughn, who was also one of his very closest friends, had been shot in Florida, as had her mother.

“I was puzzled, didn’t believe it,” Holiman said. “Then I got another phone call … I’m getting all of this information in the wee hours of the night. She’s in the hospital. They didn’t know if she’d make it through.”

Holiman immediately flew back home, jumped in his car and drove to Florida, with her fate still unsettled in his mind.

“We were virtually flying, literally going as fast as we could,” Holiman said. “It was pretty surreal.”

Thankfully, Vaughn and her mother, Aretha, pulled through. But their story was a harrowing one.

The two lived in Florida, where Vaughn said Aretha had taken in a young man named Justin Young, who seemingly had nowhere to go.

“He was sleeping in his car, going pillar to post … Mom let him stay with her,” Vaughn said. “She thought she was doing something to help him out.”

Everything seemed okay, Vaughn said, until New Year’s night. Young walked into the house with ill intentions. Hiding a gun within a fast food bag, he attempted to shoot Vaughn. The gun apparently jammed, and Vaughn began to fight for her own life and her mother’s as well. A second shot attempt hit Aretha in the shoulder, then he turned his full attention to the younger woman, Vaughn said.

“We were fighting for five or six minutes. He pulled me by my hair to the ground,” Vaughn said. “I pulled him down so he wouldn’t stand over me and shoot me.”

But he was able to gain an advantage, trying to shoot her in the head during the struggle. She said he fired a shot that went through the side of her head into her shoulder.

“Some kind of way I was able to throw him off of me and run next door to the neighbors,” she said. “He was shooting at my mom and hit her in the stomach.”

Vaughn said she didn’t think she’d make it.

“As far as I knew … I mean, shot in the head, I thought it was over. Once I went out …,” she said, trailing off before noting she woke up in the hospital the next night around 9 p.m. Attempts to remove the bullet that traveled through her head into her shoulder weren’t successful—she’d stopped breathing, and she was told removing the bullet could have led to her death. It’s still lodged in her shoulder today.

Young was arrested and is being held in prison back in Florida.

“I don’t sleep. I think about it every day.” – Mea Vaughn

When Holliman got there, he called it an incredible relief to learn the two had made it, but that the situation was of course alarming and jarring.

“There was a lot of regret and anger … a lot of, ‘y’all should have stayed in New Orleans, you don’t have family here,’” Holiman said. “It wasn’t the time for it, but there were a lot of questions. Why would anyone want to kill you? It’s an evil power within people who do that … we couldn’t understand.”

The question of whether Young had exhibited signs of violence before came up. They would learn that he did have a history, but as far as his stay with Aretha, there were few signs.

“They’d never had an argument, no fights, nothing remotely like that,” Vaughn said. “He bought the gun before Christmas … he planned this out.”

Holiman started a GoFundMe page to help the two get back on their feet following the incident. The two women have moved back to the New Orleans area – “I couldn’t stay there after that,” Vaughn said – and Vaughn is working again, bullet lodged in her right side and all.

“They’re starting over … we aren’t rich. I wanted to try to help somehow and people have stepped up to help … you see this kind of thing on TV all the time, but to happen to someone so close, that’s my best friend. We grew up together,” Holiman said. “It was frightening to possibly lose her.”

Said Vaughn, “All I can say is God had his hand in that.”

Vaughn said she knows she maybe shouldn’t be working so soon after the injury and incident, but “We’re still human, and we still have to make ends meet each day.”

She’s still getting past the trauma.

“I don’t sleep,” she said. “I think about it every day.”

A true life nightmare

  • Mea Vaughn and mother Aretha were attacked and shot during a New Year’s night incident in Florida.
  • Brian Holiman of St. Rose grew up with Vaughn and is trying to help her get back on her feet, starting a GoFundMe ( as a means to do so.
  • Vaughn still has a bullet from the attack lodged in her right side, as removing it could have led to her death.


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