Tatiana David

ITHACA, N.Y.—The family of Tatiana David has started a GoFundMe to support her son after David was killed during a gunfight between Virginia police and the man who abducted David from her home in Ithaca on April 5.

Michael Davis, 34, was charged with one felony count of abduction, with additional charges possibly still to come. He had previously been romantically involved with David and is the father of her four-year-old child. Davis is accused of forcing David into a vehicle around 7 a.m. on April 5, fleeing the area and, apparently, trying to take her to his residence near Richmond, Virginia.

The fallout leaves David’s son, who has autism, with one parent deceased and another facing charges for orchestrating the situation that led to David’s death. The GoFundMe’s goal is $20,000, of which it has reached nearly half. The fundraiser, available here, was confirmed by David’s family.

Details from the chase and shooting have been scant so far. Around 9:45 p.m. that night, police near Arlington, Virginia pulled over Davis while he was driving on I-95 south for an improper registration on the vehicle. According to Virginia police, the officer spoke to both Davis and David but didn’t realize Davis was wanted in David’s abduction until he returned to his police vehicle to verify Davis’ identity.

Davis then fled in the vehicle before the traffic stop was completed. He later crashed twice, with Tatiana David still in the car, after a pursuit of about 20-30 minutes, it appears.

“As soon as the troopers approached the SUV, Davis, who remained in the driver’s seat, began shooting at them,” according to the Virginia State Police.

It should be noted that while initial reports said that David was found outside of the vehicle, that information came from New York State Police. The above statement from the Virginia police reads that David had been struck by gunfire while she was in the vehicle, then both she and Davis were pulled from the car for medical attention. Another significant difference: initial reports stated that one firearm had been recovered from the scene, but police have now stated that two firearms were recovered from the scene. Davis, the abductor, is the only person accused of shooting at police.

District Administrator Jennifer Starkey of the Virginia Office of the Medical Examiner’s Northern District told The Ithaca Voice that David died from multiple gunshot wounds, with the cause of death being deemed a homicide. She said other information is confidential unless released to the victim’s family. Reports from the scene originally indicated that it was possible Davis had shot David before police began firing at the vehicle, but David’s family contests that narrative now that more evidence has been released—though more specific autopsy results have not been released. Davis has not been charged with killing Tatiana David.

Emanuel Espada, David’s brother, said that he was told David was in the backseat of the vehicle when she was killed, and that she was shot multiple times. Those factors, he said, have convinced him that she was killed by police during the gunfight between Davis and them.

“The vehicle was riddled with bullets, even in the backseat,” Espada said. “My whole thing is, if they clearly knew the driver was shooting, why shoot at the backseat? Why fill the vehicle with holes, what was the purpose of that? […] If she was in the backseat, I’m pretty sure Michael didn’t turn around and unload into the backseat, if he was firing in the police’s direction.”

Espada said his family is still reeling from the loss of another sibling two years ago and that Tatiana’s death has just exacerbated that.

“The best way to describe my sister would be sunshine,” Espada said. “Everything about her was great. The one thing I’m going to regret is not seeing her face every day and talking to her, cracking jokes on each other. I used to call her ‘Gigantor’ and she’d call me ‘short stuff,’ since even though I’m older than her, she was bigger than me.”

The family, 13 siblings total, had been through the foster care system and got separated frequently as a result. Espada said Tatiana found him again when she was 17 after a 16-year separation (Espada was separated from her from the age of 5 until he was 21).

“She’d been in my life ever since, stuck together like glue,” Espada said of David, who also served in the military. “We lost a fighter, a survivor, someone who would have contributed to this world tremendously. That’s the part that saddens me the most, I’ll never get to see her full potential. But best believe I’m going to make sure her son reaches his fullest potential and has the best opportunities afforded to him, that’s the best I can do to make sure her memory is honored.”

Matt Butler is the Editor in Chief of The Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.org.