CINCINNATI -- Most wouldn't expect someone who was shot in the face to say they are grateful, but Ellie Richardson says she'll never take a moment for granted again.
The 27-year-old Lachey's bar manager, who was shot early Thanksgiving morning in Over-the-Rhine, spoke exclusively with WCPO on Friday. Richardson said she feels "blessed" by the amount of support she's received.
"I just am so overwhelmed with the way the community has pulled together and done so much for me," she said. "Words can't even describe how grateful I am."
Lavoris Hightower, 36, is facing charges of attempted murder, two counts of felonious assault, having weapons while under disability and tampering with evidence in connection with the Nov. 23 shooting.
Hightower turned himself in Thursday night. His attorney, Clyde Bennett, said that Hightower was an innocent victim of an overzealous police response to the shooting.
But Richardson said she saw the man's face before she was shot and claimed she's "100 percent" sure it was Hightower who shot her.
"The only other explanation would be if he has a twin that looks exactly like him … that was him," Richardson said.
Richardson said she and her boyfriend were walking across the street from Lachey's when a car almost hit her. She said her boyfriend yelled at the driver, and the driver yelled back.
"I took like two or three steps toward the van, and that's when he had pulled out the gun," she said.
Richardson said she didn't see the gun, but her boyfriend did. She said her boyfriend grabbed her and tried to pull her away.
"If he wouldn't have done that, I truly believe that I would be dead," she said.
She said the bullet went through the left side of her face below her temple, piercing her nasal cavity and stopping on the right side of her face.
"You could almost see it protruding right below my ear," Richardson said.
Richardson said doctors initially thought her condition was much worse and weren't sure whether she'd have brain damage. Then, they said she could lose her vision. Neither of those things happened.
Surgeons rebuilt the right side of her jaw and removed the bullet Saturday. Richardson was released three days later.
"I can't change what happened, so really staying as positive as I can has been the best medicine for me," she said.
Richardson said the incident was initially difficult for her 3-year-old son, but he's back to worrying about "little boy stuff."
"I didn't want him to see me in the hospital … I just didn't want his first memories to be of me that way," she said.
As for the rest of her family and the community, Richardson said she hopes no one is scared by what happened. She certainly isn't going to live in fear.
"I don't think that location was specific to why he chose to do that," she said. "I just hope that people will try to continue on doing what they're doing because OTR is such a great area, and I don't think it's dangerous at all. So I hope people will hear that because I truly believe that."