CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Former Lachey’s Bar manager Ellie Richardson was shot in the face while closing up shop early Thanksgiving morning in 2017.
A year and four months later, Richardson is set to graduate Thursday from the Hondros College of Nursing at West Chester Nazarene.
Richardson was leaving the Walnut Street bar where she worked around 3 a.m. with coworkers when a van nearly hit the group.
After the close encounter with the van, Richardson said she and her coworkers were vocally upset with the driver, who then got out, pulled out a gun and shot her.
“They didn’t slow down. They actually almost hit us so, I mean, that’s where the interaction came from,” Richardson said. “We were like ‘hey you almost hit us, what the heck?’ it was a 30 second interaction and before I knew it he pulled out a gun and shot me. So, I woke up in the hospital a little confused and agitated, I guess, to say the least.”
The shooter, Lavoris Hightower, turned himself in two weeks after the shooting, just hours after Cincinnati police announced his indictment on several charges related to the attack on Richardson.
Nearly one year ago in April 2018, Hightower pleaded guilty to the shooting and was given an eight year sentence.
He was charged with two counts of felonious assault, attempted murder, having weapons under disability and tampering with evidence.
Richardson says she doesn’t remember the moments after the shooting, not even the pain. Everything went black after Hightower pulled the trigger.
“That’s the last thing I remember, I saw him and then that was it. I don’t remember physically feeling the shot or anything like that. I can’t say if I remember feeling it or anything like that,” she said.
Richardson faced multiple surgeries and a two-week hospital stay, but was able to begin recovery at home in December 2017.
Bar owners and 98 Degrees boy-band members Nick and Drew Lachey not only vocally campaigned for justice for Richardson, but also held a benefit concert to go toward her recovery fund.
The slow and sometimes painful recovery through more surgeries and physical therapy was made easier by the support she received from all across the Tri-State, she said.
“I had so much support from my family and friends and the City of Cincinnati that being negative wasn’t something that I was doing,” Richardson said. “I think that I was more defeated sometimes, so that was frustrating and expecting things to happen quicker than what they were. So, I think that was a hard pill for me to swallow is -- everything wasn’t going to happen at once and I wasn’t going to be back to normal right away.”
Richardson said through countless hours in the hospital and doctors office, she rediscovered her dream of a career in health care.
“I had some phenomenal nurses who helped with my recovery and dealt with me when I wasn’t the most pleasant of a person and so, just their care and watching them do the things that they do and going the extra mile just to help me with things. I mean, it just made me know even more that I wanted to be a nurse and to pursue my career," Richardson said.
With graduation day nearing, Richardson said she’s had time to reflect on how a horrific attack led her to a new life more than a year later.
“I don’t sit and dwell or think about how much I hate him or anything like that because that’s not my view on this at all,” she said. “I don’t forgive him for what happened but I’ve moved on and I wouldn’t be where I am today. Not that I’m grateful for what happened at all, but I wouldn’t have moved forward in my life in this aspect and my thought process. I wouldn’t have grown the way that I have if something like this wouldn’t have happened.”
Her new career path wouldn’t be possible without her son Jameson and her boyfriend, she says.
Richardson says her son looked at her the other day and said, “Mommy, I’m so proud of you with school.”