Doctors said Abigail Kopf was not declared medically brain dead, despite reports

By Char Adams
February 23, 2016 11:10 AM

The 14-year-old girl who was allegedly shot in the head by a Michigan Uber driver is “fighting for her life” after shocking her mother by squeezing her hand when doctors feared there was no hope, her family says.

Doctors at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan revealed Monday night that Abigail Kopf’s heart had stopped and that they told her parents that there was not much else that they could do for her. They discussed declaring her brain dead and had begun the process of harvesting her organs.

In a sign that has been deemed “a miracle,” Abigail – who had previously been unresponsive – suddenly squeezed her mother’s hand. She has since been able to wiggle her toes, as well, her mother Vicki Kopf revealed.

Vicki Kopf became emotional as she talked about her daughter’s struggle at a news conference at Bronson Methodist Hospital on Monday night.

“My daughter is not dead. She is alive and she’s fighting for her life,” Vicki said. “She was vibrant and beautiful and she did not deserve this. But right now, my daughter is struggling.”

Abigail was one of eight people shot in a random mass shooting that terrorized Kalamazoo on Saturday night. Six people died, including Barbara Hawthorne, 68 – a close family friend who Abigail called her “grandma,” the family said.

Abigail Kopf's mother Vicki said her daughter is fighting for her life

Jason Dalton, 45, has been arrested and charged with six counts of murder, among other charges. Prosecutors say he admitted to police that he killed people.

“We have been by Abigail’s bedside since this happened,” her father, Gene Kopf, said.

“She remains in critical condition, fighting for her life. But as we mentioned, she is strong-willed and fighting.”

Authorities initially declared that Abigail died after being shot in the head through the passenger seat of a vehicle parked outside a Cracker Barrel in Kalamazoo, the Associated Press reports.

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Police investigate the scene of a shooting outside a Kalamazoo, Michigan, Cracker Barrel
Mark Bugnaski/Kalamazoo Gazette

A doctor at the news conference said that the teen “remains on a ventilator and critically ill.” Doctors have since been able to get her heart re-started.

“In spite of the seriousness of her injuries, we are encouraged by her relative stability over the last several days and responsiveness to her parents and our team,” the doctor said.

Police previously told PEOPLE that the teen continued to show progress in the hospital in the days following the shooting. She gave two thumbs-up in response to doctors’ questions.

“It was a miracle, Michigan State Police First Lt. Dale Hinz told PEOPLE on Monday. “The one ray of hope and light that we have in this very dark situation.”

Mother Vicki Kopf made similar statements at the press conference, detailing her daughter’s progress.

“As of right now [Abigail is] actually showing some progress, which is great news,” Vicki said. “She’s actually squeezing hands more, and she’s actually trying to squeeze on the other side too – both arms. And she’s wiggling her toes.”

Abigail’s parents described her as a strong-willed teen who “loves to have fun.”

“She loves theater and musicals and is very athletic,” Gene said. “She loves animals, especially sharks and wolves.”

The parents said their daughter has a long road to recovery ahead.

They thanked the hospital and their community for their support and added that they harbor no ill feelings toward Dalton’s family.

“Our thoughts are with the Dalton family who are also suffering at this time,” Gene, Abigail’s father, said. “We want his family to know we don’t hold anything against the family members.”