Woman Dies Years After Surviving 2013 Domestic Violence Shooting That Left Her Paralyzed

Alisha Waters became an advocate for stronger domestic violence laws after the armed assault

Alisha Waters
Photo: Facebook

Alisha Waters, who became an advocate for stronger domestic violence laws after being shot by her estranged husband over eight years ago, has died. She was 39.

Waters died on Feb. 17 at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, according to her online obituary. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that prior to her death she was having "serious respiratory and heart problems," and that she had been fighting for her life ever since the 2013 shooting.

On the morning of August 6, 2013, Waters was attacked by her estranged husband, Dennis Mathis, at the building where she worked, according to the outlet. Mathis shot her five times before he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Waters only survived the ambush by playing dead while an elevator door slammed against her head, she wrote in a post to Facebook last August.

"The first shot was fired,.. that was the point of no return," she wrote in the post. "I found myself in survival mode; throwing my purse, at the office door in front of me, hoping for someone's attention... But no one came to my rescue. Three more shots rang out, and still no one came to help. I can't recall exactly when it was that I crumbled to the ground, but soon I heard what would be the last shot he would fire at me."

"It was then that I heard a little voice say 'play dead!' It could have been my conscience?" Waters recalled. "Maybe my guardian angel? Who knows, quite possibly even my God!"

The Cincinnati Enquirer previously reported that one bullet cut Waters' spinal cord, which left her unable to use her legs or arms.

In her 2021 Facebook post, and in interviews with the Enquirer, Waters recalled how she tried to get a domestic violence order of protection against Mathis before the attack, but was rejected despite harassment over texts and voicemails.

"I felt betrayed. Here I was, begging for help, and now I was being turned away?" Waters wrote, adding that she believed her former husband suffered from a mental illness and was off his medications at the time. "Had I been granted that DVO, I feel I may not be a quadriplegic nor sitting in this chair before you today."

Since the shooting, Waters relied on her family and loved ones for her caretaking needs, the Inquirer reported. They told the newspaper that she had recently been experiencing severe respiratory and heart issues leading up to her death.

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Despite all that she had experienced, Waters preserved to become an advocate for tougher domestic violence laws and mental health services.

"I'm here, yes I'm alive, but what about the gunman, he should be here enjoying life, still with his family & friends," she wrote in the 2021 Facebook post. "Mental illness is a huge problem in our society & it just seems like it's swept under the rug; why, these people deserve attention, [education] & counseling just like any other sick person."

"Maybe I wouldn't be stuck in this chair," she continued, "maybe he'd be here today had more people other than his family, took the time to pay attention to the signs & red flags."

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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