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‘Did he suffer? Was it instant?’ Father haunted by son’s death in Oregon District 

Published: Friday, August 09, 2019 @ 3:53 PM

Thomas McNichols, known to all as TeeJay. and a father of four, was a ‘gentle giant,’ according to his aunt.

In the days since a gunman opened fire in the Oregon District, killing nine and injuring 37 others, Thomas McNichols has returned to the scene five times to shed tears.

>> Oregon District shooting: What we’ve learned about the victims

McNichols’ son, TJ, was one of the nine people killed early Sunday morning.

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His phone was filled with messages Sunday morning. Initially, he had no clue why. He talked to a family member and sped downtown to the convention center feeling a slew of emotions.

>> The victims: Thomas McNichols, father of four and ‘gentle giant’

“I needed to find out where’s my son. That’s all that was on my mind,” McNichols told News Center 7’s Letitia Perry.

Even now, the news of TJ’s death doesn’t seem real.  TJ, McNichols’ only son and a father of four, is gone forever.

>> ‘He saved my life,’ Oregon District shooting victim recounts officers taking down gunman

Jamila McNichols, sister of slain mass shooting victim Thomas "TJ" McNichols, mourns beside a memorial near the scene of the mass shooting Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio.(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

McNichols is comforted by the outpouring of support from people he knows, and many he doesn’t.  Still nothing fills the void; and his questions haunt him.

“Did he get shot running? Did he suffer? Was it instant?” McNichols said.

Ultimately, he wants the mass shooting to spur action; not just headlines. And, not just from politicians, or any one group, but from all of us.

>> Funeral services set for Monday for Dayton shooting victim

“People gotta step up if it hasn’t happened to you, so this won’t happen to your family,” McNichols said.

A celebration of TJ’s life is set for Monday morning at 11 a.m. at St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church in Dayton.