Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A Kentucky woman wounded in a shootout in Columbia's Vista this month says she's thankful to be alive,
Denise Massey was released from the hospital Wednesday. Afterward, she went back to the scene of the shooting and talked to News19, the first time she's spoken publicly since she was shot around 2 a.m. on September 16.
She and her finance, Jimmy Brannon, had come to town to enjoy the city and watch the South Carolina-Kentucky football game. Massey and Brannon went to restaurants and said they were having "the time of their life." They then decided to end their fun for the evening, and started heading back to their hotel.
Then the gunfire began.
"Several nice people were just socializing and having a really good time standing here talking and all at once I just heard pop, pop, pop, pop," she recalls.
Investigators say two rival groups with ties to the local music scene got into a fight and started firing at each other outside a nightclub on Park Street. They weren't aiming at Massey--they didn't even know her. She was just caught in the crossfire.
"I didn't have time to react, or know where to really go because there wasn't a lot of area. And then the next thing I looked up and saw a bunch of people. I saw actual fire coming out of a gun barrel and I was down."
When it was over, eight people had been hit by gunfire. Brannon recalled afterward seeing her covered in blood.
"I can't tell you what I was feeling or anything because it was I just can't describe it," she said. "There was a couple of people that were standing nearby and I heard him we got to stop the bleeding. I heard him yelling for me and then the next thing I knew, I was in the back of an ambulance ..and I asked him is this real? And he was like yes ma'am it's real."
The bullet went through her right cheek and exited out of her neck, but missed her spinal cord. It cut a carotid artery, and fractured her jaw and her neck.
The artery damage caused blood clots, and she's losing vision in her right eye.
Still, doctors expect her to make a total recovery. "I'm just thankful I'm alive," she said.
Through it all, Brannon has been by her side. "By my side the whole time. He never left me, except to check on the dog," she said.
When she entered the hospital, they were boyfriend and girlfriend. Now, they're engaged, after Brannon popped the question as she was recovering, of all times, during the middle of the Kentucky-Florida game.
"We had literally been talking about it," Brannon said. "She yelled yes, and I put on Facebook that Denise Massey said yes...Seemed like the time to do it."
When he posted that she'd said "yes" on Facebook, he said some people didn't know whether it was about a player scoring a touchdown during last Saturday's UK-Florida game or something else.
"We were laughing about the yes, the emphatic "yes," Brannon said. "There was another yes I was wanting too. So I just said are you going to say yes to the other question too, and she said yes again. (laughs) Not as emphatic as the touchdown I have to say."
"I've wanted this for a long time, I truly love him," Massey said.
"Life is short and things that mean something you need to act on," Brannon said. "I mean there's nothing you can do about it and I think…you're just penalizing yourself and so we just want to emphasize going forward for us."
"I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and involved something I never should've been brought up in.
she said. "Right now I'm just concentrating on me and getting me back to myself."
Massey will have to have surgery on her jaw at some point after she returns to Kentucky.