Dominique McKane remembers lying behind the front desk at the Lambright Sports & Wellness Center, fighting to stay conscious, focusing on the staff attending to her as knife wounds all over her body threatened to make her bleed out.
“It seemed like I was just bleeding everywhere,” she recalls. “They kept trying to keep me alert and awake, talking to me. I was telling them I have two kids at home, a husband. I’m a graduating senior — I graduate this weekend.”
McKane, 25, was one of four victims in a Nov. 13 stabbing attack on Louisiana Tech University campus, allegedly carried out by 23-year-old Tech student Jacoby Johnson.
It was apparently McKane’s pinpoint description of her assailant, given while lying bleeding on the Lambright floor, that helped university police find and apprehend Johnson within minutes of the incident.
Despite being stabbed or slashed on her head, neck, back, wrist and both arms, McKane did graduate as scheduled five days later, taking a triumphant walk across the stage Saturday to receive her bachelor’s degree in exercise and health promotion.
Later that night, this survivor, Army veteran and mother spoke at length with the Leader to share her experience before, during and after the brutal attack that killed one woman and left two others fighting for their lives.
Road to the Lambright
Evidence markers litter the walkway to the Lambright door roughly an hour after the attack. Photo by Caleb Daniel
If things had gone to plan, Dominique McKane probably wouldn’t have been on campus on Nov. 13. She would’ve graduated a couple years ago.
But a variety of circumstances stretched her undergraduate career across six years.
For most of 2021, for example, her husband Chandler was deployed with the Army National Guard. McKane had their first child, a son, while he was away.
She had to juggle new motherhood solo while staying in school and traveling to her own National Guard unit in Bunkie, some two hours away from home in West Monroe.
“It’s pretty hard, especially as a new mom, to balance all that,” McKane said. “But I knew school was very important, and I really wanted my college degree.”
Wanting to go into women’s health after graduating, McKane had an intership and practicum teaching course lined up for this summer to finish off her degree.
But then she became pregnant with their second child, a daughter, in late 2022 and decided to push those last two pieces of college to this fall.
In Tech’s Department of Kinesiology, the practicum course allows students to lead and instruct senior adult exercise classes. McKane chose an 8 a.m. water aerobics course.
That’s what brought her to the Lambright Sports & Wellness Center on the morning of Nov. 13, 2023.
Blood is spattered across the front entrance of the Lambright an hour after the Nov. 13 attack. Photo by Caleb Daniel
After assisting senior adults in the Lambright’s indoor pool, Mckane headed to the locker room around 9 a.m. with one goal in mind: get back home to relieve her husband, who was sick and watching the kids.
“I really didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary walking out of the locker room or out of the building,” she said. “Once I got halfway down the Lambright sidewalk to the parking lot, there was this boy who sprinted past me. He jumped in his truck and just peeled out of the parking lot. I stopped what I was doing, like oh my gosh, what’s going on?”
Investigators determined Johnson brandished a knife at a student playing basketball inside the Lambright just before the attacks, Tech Police Chief Randal Hermes said last week.
McKane looked behind her and saw Johnson on the Lambright walkway, but she said he wasn’t acting suspiciously. She dismissed the other boy’s hasty exit as “kids being kids.”
McKane didn’t know Johnson. Reportedly, none of his victims did. Police have repeatedly called what happened next a random act of violence.
“I reached the end of the sidewalk and heard screaming from two elderly women that were four, five feet away from me,” McKane said.
Former 3rd District Judge Cynthia Woodard and local artist Annie Richardson were leaving a separate senior program than the one McKane helped teach.
McKane saw Johnson attacking the two women and thought he was punching them. She couldn’t yet see the short folding knife in his hand.
“I took a step towards them and yelled at him and said, ‘Hey, stop that!’” she said. “He turned and looked at me, and there was just no emotion on his face. He just lunged towards me. At this point is when I saw a pocket knife.”
McKane put her arms up defensively, and Johnson cut both of them. In the ensuing scuffle, he stabbed her head and the back of her neck, then she fell on the ground.
“I was kicking him off of me, kicking him hard enough to try to get up,” she said. “Once I saw he was away from me enough, I just rolled over and started running for the (Lambright) door.”
She felt Johnson grab her shirt from behind, so she slipped out of it. He caught up to her and grabbed the back of her bra.
“I’m continuously pulling against him and trying to run inside the Lambright until my bra broke,” McKane said. “I was so tunnel visioned, I couldn’t feel and see anything else. I just saw the door.”
Retired educator Debby Hollimon spoke with the Leader about an hour after the incident. She, too, was leaving a senior exercise class when she heard screams and saw Johnson attacking McKane.
She said she ran from the parking lot to confront the assailant. Just like McKane, it was Johnson’s lack of emotion that she remembered most.
“I just ran up screaming, ‘get off her, get away from her!’” Hollimon said. “He stands up and looks at me with no expression, just as flat as can be.”
Hollimon said Johnson quickly grazed her across the right side of her face with the knife and then walked away down the sidewalk leading south from the Lambright. She didn’t realize until later that she had been cut.
Meanwhile, McKane made it to the door.
Staggering inside, she recalls screaming for help and making her way to the lobby desk. That’s where Hollimon found her after her brief encounter with Johnson, already being attended to by Lambright staff. She joined in.
“She was bleeding everywhere, it was horrible,” Hollimon said. “We were putting pressure on stuff. She was very clammy, very cold, very pale. She had lost blood, and we were just trying to keep her alive.”
Stabbing suspect Jacoby Johnson was apprehended here, some 1500 feet south of the incident. Photo by Caleb Daniel
That brings us back to McKane lying on the Lambright floor, trying to stay awake, talking about her family and waiting for emergency responders to arrive.
The first one she remembers was a police officer. McKane said she told the officer exactly what Johnson was wearing when he attacked her. A beanie with a Dallas Cowboys printed logo and “one of those little poofs on the top.” A navy blue jacket. Black athletic sweats with a red stripe going down the leg. She even remembered the black wire prescription glasses.
“(The officer) released that information, and within minutes they caught him,” she said. “They were all telling me they caught him and I did really good.”
According to a release from the university that day, only four minutes elapsed from the start of Tech police’s response to the time officers apprehended Johnson.
He was found outside the Kidd Commons student apartment complex, some 1500 feet south of the Lambright.
“It’s just scary that he could have jumped on more people,” McKane said.”There’s no telling.”
But her description, relayed to officers in the most dire of circumstances, helped reduce that chance.
McKane attributes that to her National Guard training. Her job for the Guard was truck driving.
“They especially trained us to look out for roadside bombs and any type of things that are just out of the element that could potentially harm us during a convoy,” she said. “In officer training, you’re taught whenever you engage in contact, you’re supposed to say what you see, how far away it is, if they have any weapons, ammunition, bombs or anything. You’re supposed to be able to spit that out very quickly.”
Hollimon heard McKane’s description to the officer too, and after the incident, that stuck out in her mind.
“She described him to a T,” Hollimon said. “I could never have done it.”
A life saved
Stabbing victim Dominique McKane and her husband Chandler McKane pose for a photo with the caption “she lives” after Dominique’s discharge. Photo submitted by Dominique McKane
McKane said she’s thankful that everyone who helped her throughout that harrowing morning seemed prepared and well trained, and that started with the Lambright staff.
“They all kept good pressure on all my wounds,” she said. “If they wouldn’t have done that, I’m pretty sure I would have died from blood loss.”
After the police came the paramedics, she recalls. They got her into an ambulance, packed her wounds, and put something like a chest seal on her lacerated back.
The practice football field outside Joe Aillet Stadium, across Tech Drive from the Lambright, was cleared for the Pafford EMS Air One medical helicopter.
McKane was loaded up and flown to Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport. At some point she was given a blood transfusion — she doesn’t remember when.
What she does remember is realizing she might die.
“I was thinking that I need to push through as hard as I can and get to a hospital,” she said. “I was basically pacing myself. What I mean is, ‘OK, well, you need to try super hard to be awake right now, so once you get to the hospital, you can relax.’”
That got more difficult during the flight to Shreveport.
“Definitely really scary,” she said. “Everything was getting faded and dim. But once we landed at the hospital, they were able to stabilize me and take really good care of me.”
Dominique McKane is airlifted from outside Joe Aillet Stadium to Shreveport for treatment following the stabbing. Photo by Caleb Daniel
McKane remembers being swarmed by teams of hospital staff, who went to work checking her wounds, her reflexes, seeing what she could move.
But she only had eyes for one person: the one taking her information down.
“I was telling him that I need him to call my husband, that I wanted my husband down there with me,” she said.
X-rays and CT scans revealed she wouldn’t need surgery. Her stab wound in the back of her neck had caused a fracture to her C6 vertebra, but she was told it would heal on its own.
She also had a pneumothorax — a collapsed lung.
“That really hurt. I was really scared about that,” McKane said. “It felt like my ribs were broken, like I couldn’t breathe.”
But in the end, McKane was out of the woods and on the road to recovery.
“I’m feeling very blessed,” she said. “I know how much worse this could have all been. It could have been different people (helping her). He could have stabbed me in a very vital area. It could have went really bad.”
Sadly, not everyone could say the same. Richardson would succumb to her injuries Tuesday evening. She and Woodard were initially treated at Northern Louisiana Medical Center in Ruston before later being flown to Shreveport.
Woodard was discharged Wednesday.
Prayers and well wishes for the victims were collected by Louisiana Tech’s Student Government Association. Photo by Caleb Daniel
McKane said she’s thankful for how well she was taken care of in Shreveport, down to such accommodations as providing a breast pump for her as a breastfeeding mother.
She was discharged around 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday. She went back to the emergency room at St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe Thursday out of concern that one of her arm wounds had become infected, but it hadn’t.
“I’m doing much, much better,” she said Saturday evening. “I’m able to walk around. I’m not as dependent on my painkillers. Most of the day I still need to lay down because I get pretty dizzy being up and about for too long.”
One of the less glamorous parts of recovery was that by Thursday, three days after the attack, McKane’s hair was still full of dried blood and bits of hair that were shaved off at the hospital.
After many hours of trying to wash out two huge mats of hair over Thursday and Friday, she eventually gave up and had a friend cut them off.
She credits her “Super Dad” husband Chandler, as well as both of their extended families, for stepping up to take care of the kids, bring food and help in any way they could.
“My family has been there thick and thin for us,” she said.
Since the story began circulating through campus, Ruston and beyond, McKane said she’s felt the support from friends and strangers alike.
“My phone’s just constantly blowing up, from friends and family but also strangers telling me they’re praying for me,” she said. “Just the outpour of love and support has been crazy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that. It just means so much to me during this time.”
Chandler set up a GoFundMe page to help with Dominique’s medical expenses. By the end of the weekend, it had raised more than $18,000.
It’s still active and accepting donations at gofundme.com/f/xvntcm-dominiques-medical-expenses.
A Tech grad at last
Dominique McKane walks the stage Saturday and receives her diploma from Louisiana Tech President Les Guice just five days after the stabbing. Photo by Emerald McIntyre/Louisiana Tech University
The road to graduation wasn’t exactly what Dominique McKane had envisioned.
But at the end of a dark and terrifying week for the Louisiana Tech and Ruston community, a little bit of hope walked across the stage at the Thomas Assembly Center Saturday, receiving special recognition from Tech president Les Guice as he bestowed McKane’s diploma.
Six long years and five death-defying days since enrollment, McKane said the feeling was a great one.
“I’m so relieved to finally attain this, such a long-term goal I’ve had,” she said. “Sometimes it just felt unobtainable. It feels really good to finally achieve that now.”