Woman shot by ex-husband tells of her recovery

Sarah Perry
Staff Writer

On Sept. 27, 2016, Sarah Heer was optimistic about life. She and her then-husband, Bradley Clayton, had been separated for five month, but they were on the road to reconciliation.

Or so she thought.

She could have never imagined that the man who she once loved would shoot her and leave her bleeding on a sidewalk.

According to a police report, Heer went to speak with Clayton the day of the incident.
Heer told officers she let herself into the home after Clayton did not answer the door. She made contact with Clayton but “Bradley became mad, yelled at her to leave, to which she refused,” according to court documents.

Clayton began loading a rifle and pointed it at her head. He fired two rounds into the ceiling as she left.

“Shots continued into the ceiling of the home as they made way to the front door,” according to records.
Cooper eventually shot Heer in the leg.
Earlier this week, he pleaded guilty to first-degree domestic battery before Saline County Circuit Judge Barbara Webb.

As part of the plea deal, Clayton was sentenced to 120 months of probation, 60 days at the Saline County Detention Center and was ordered to pay various fees. He was also ordered to take part in anger management treatment, pay medical costs to Heer and not have any contact with her.
In hopes of helping other women, Heer said she has been called by God to tell her story. By hearing about her, she hopes women will see that “there is help and there is hope” and that they can “come out stronger on the other side.”

To share about her experience, Heer has written a guest column for the Christian-based blog “My Journey of Faith.”
In her most recent posting, Heer wrote about the victim impact statement she prepared for Clayton’s final court appearance.

She writes about that day in September that changed her life.
She went to Clayton’s home after being told by a mutual friend “he needs you. I think you should go over there.”

“She said she had just gotten off the phone with you. You were saying you loved me and wanted us to get back together. I can’t even describe how happy that made me. I drove straight to our house and knocked on the back door, but you didn’t answer,” she wrote in the statement.
When Clayton grabbed a gun and starting filing shots in the ceiling, Heer said she froze.

“You were shooting at the ceiling, one shot after another, and I was frozen, sitting on the bed with both hands held up to the sides of my head thinking, ‘I’m about to die,’ she wrote in her statement.
After putting a gun to her head, Clayton held the gun to her back as she walked to the front door.
Then the shot.

“Why did you shoot me? I was already leaving. There was zero reason for you to shoot,” she wrote.
To police say Clayton said he thought Heer was an intruder.

“You didn’t tell them that you held the gun to the side of my head in the light where you could clearly see my face ... You didn’t tell them that, after shooting me, you went back inside and closed the door, leaving me lying on the sidewalk bleeding. Your wife,” according to her statement.

Now she has a little more clarity of the situation.
The day of the incident, Clayton had been told to report to human resources at place of employment.

“The prospect of losing your job probably pushed you to reach for the bottle again and you fell off the wagon. I believe that you went for the gun to try and gain control over the situation because everything else in your life was so out of control,” she continued.
Luckily, Heer had her phone with her and was able to call for help. A doctor told her the bullet was less than an inch from her femoral artery. Half of the bullet exited out of the back of her leg and the other half embedded in the bone.

Because of her injuries, Heer had to miss eight days of work without pay. She spent nine weeks on crutches and was in physical therapy for five months, learning how to walk again.
Along with the physical pain, the injury also affected her emotionally.

“I see the scar every time I use the restroom, shower, change clothes or wear a swimsuit and it takes me back to that day every single time,” according to her statement.
She chooses not to wear shorts, short dresses or skirts because she can see the scar.

Loud noises also affect her. She said fireworks, construction noise or event neighbors taking part in target practice bring her back to the moment when a gun was pointed at her face.
With everything Heer has gone through, she said she forgives Clayton. Not for him though, she forgives him for herself.

“I learned so much through this experience, but I never could have done it without God. He brought me through the fire and used that heat to mold me into a new person, someone called to share my story. You can’t have the testimony without the test … you don’t have the message without the mess,” Heer wrote in her blog. “Because of what He has brought me through, I am stronger. My faith in Him has grown exponentially because He was always faithful and never left my side. He is right by your side, too …trust and lean.”
Heer said she agreed to Clayton’s plea because she did not want to testify. Answering questions about the shooting brings back memories and feelings from that day.

She calls the 17-month court process “very difficult and emotionally draining.”
Fortunately, Heer had lots of people to help her.

Jajuan Archer, founder and president of Women’s Own Worth, a Saline County organization helping victims of violent crimes, has helped Heer through this process.
The day after the shooting, Archer came to Heer’s home and told her “It’s not your fault.”

That statement saved Heer’s life, she said.
At the time, Heer was suffering from depression and had suicidal thoughts.

Archer also forced her to get an order of protection that day.

Benton attorneys Clint and Jennifer Lancaster helped her through the order of protection process and her divorce.
Heer encourages other women who may be in a similar situation and think “there is a place you can go,” to know it is possible for them to overcome an obstacle and be stronger in the end.