LaFAYETTE, Ga. — A bullet ripped through the woman's thigh, through a vein and out the back of her kneecap. It buried itself in the ground. But really, it shot straight to the heart.
Audrey Marie Mayo, 24, and Matthew Tyler Webb, 23, have known each other for about two months. When they first met, she said, he seemed nice, friendly, responsible. Plus, he liked the Grateful Dead.
But Mayo said the two didn't officially become a couple until Nov. 21, after Mayo accidentally shot her.
"Cupid doesn't use a bow and arrow anymore," said 30-year-old Jesse Greer, Mayo's brother-in-law. "He uses an SKS" rifle.
Earlier that day, Mayo and Webb hung out on the roof of Webb's mother's house at 910 Hillsdale Road. Across the street, Webb spotted some deer and decided to try to bag one.
After he left Mayo alone on the rooftop around 5:30 p.m., she thought she heard him calling for her. She thought he wanted her to bring him a knife. So Mayo climbed down the ladder and walked across the street. She called out to Webb, kind of.
"I was doing like a half yell," she said Friday in her home on Raleigh Drive, two weeks after the incident. "I didn't want to scare the deer away."
Through the thicket of briar, gripping his rifle, Webb heard rustling and saw movement. Then, everything stopped. He aimed.
"And then I heard a gunshot," Mayo said. "And then I felt it. And then I hit the ground."
Something sharp ran through her leg, like a rod with hooks ripping through her flesh and nerves and blood vessels.
She doesn't remember much else from that night. She recalls lying on the ground and wondering whether Webb thought she was dead. She remembers medics talking to each other in some complicated jargon.
She woke up days later in a bed at Erlanger hospital. Webb was in the room with her, clutching a note he wrote so that, when he got a chance to talk to the woman he accidentally shot, he would know what to say.
After Webb called 911 on Nov. 21, LaFayette police arrested him on charges of firing a gun within 150 feet of a road. Capt. Stacey Meeks said Webb admitted to taking several illegal drugs that day, and Meeks expects Webb will be charged with other crimes.
Because the incident involved hunting violations, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is handling the investigation. The day after the shooting, DNR Capt. Johnny Johnson said Webb could be charged with misuse of a firearm, a hunting license violation and failing to wear orange.
DNR investigators will meet with the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit district attorney's office at some point, though earlier this week D.A. Herbert "Buzz" Franklin said they have yet to do so. Johnson did not return calls seeking comment Friday.
Though criminal charges loom against him, Mayo's family says they are not mad at Webb. He didn't mean to shoot her. In fact, he since has moved into their house to help take care of her.
Webb's bullet sliced through the popliteal vein that runs behind Mayo's right kneecap, and some nerves are damaged, as well. The leg may have problems circulating blood for the rest of her life. She won't be able to put weight on it for three months.
And if she gets a serious infection, doctors may have to amputate it. She's taking nine medications, but the pain can still be unbearable. Sometimes, she feels pain shooting to her leg when she blinks.
"It hurts on top of my knee," she said. "And behind my knee. And on my shin, my calf, my ankle, my hip. The whole thing hurts."
But as she says this, as she talks about pain that sometimes makes her scream and curse and wiggle whatever she can wiggle to distract herself, Mayo laughs from her living room couch. Across the room, so does her mother, Mary Mayo, 59, a Memorial Hospital nurse who first assumed her daughter would die, then thought she would be permanently brain damaged from blood loss.
But as the days progressed, and as the Mayos realized that Audrey would survive the shooting, fear turned into humor. Audrey Mayo says she wants to find the bullet, to turn it into a necklace. Greer, her brother-in-law, says she should get a tattoo of a deer with the word "Jane" across it in honor of her hospital name: Jane Doe.
"Once we realized she was alive -- and that she was going to be alive -- we started to lighten up a little bit," said her sister, Rachel Mayo Greer, 27.
"No need to put more negativity on the whole thing," Audrey Mayo said.
Humor is important for her recovery, her mother said. She wants to buy her daughter a laptop.
"She can watch funny stuff and laugh all day," Mary Mayo said.
"Just get me some laughing gas," Audrey told her mother.
"Noooo," she said. "You can laugh at funny things."
When asked to describe her injuries, Audrey just says she got shot. How much more detail do you need, she asks. Her boyfriend shot her. And yes, she adds, he is her boyfriend now that he's aimed for her.
"It's like a modern version of how a caveman used to bash a woman over the head with a club," Greer said. "These days, they just shoot her in the leg."
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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