DALLAS — Kristen Vickers held her eight-year-old daughter tight. She tried to console her, but it's hard to offer comfort when you're hurting, too.
"It's just devastating, it really is. Like... what now? What can I do with my life now?" she asked on the front porch of the wheelchair-accessible home she had purchased.
Now the man for whom she bought it is gone.
"The worst thing I had to do tonight is tell my eight-year-old daughter that her father will not be coming back home," a tearful Vickers said.
In the early hours of March 18, 2012, as St. Patrick's Day celebrations on Greenville Avenue in Dallas were winding down, two men tried to rob Ryan Lusk and a friend at gunpoint. The same men had also abducted a woman earlier in that night, forcing her to go to ATMs across Dallas trying — unsuccessfully — to withdraw money.
During the robbery attempt, three shots were fired. A bullet severed Ryan's spine, paralyzing him.
He spent the last year-and-a-half in a wheelchair, yet his relationship with Vickers never wavered.
"I got him to come to grips with the situation he was in, and he knew that I loved him and I wasn't going anywhere," she said. "I think that's what made him strong."
Ryan spent a lot of time in the hospital after being shot. He was most recently back fighting an infection. But Vickers said he seemed to be improving in recent days. They had even talked about finally getting married.
But at 6 a.m. Tuesday, she got a call from the hospital. Ryan had died, 20 months after being shot.
Over the summer, 20-year-old Anthony Hill was sentenced to up to 45 years in prison for his role in the crime spree. His alleged accomplice, Horace Jones, also 20, pleaded guilty. His sentencing is scheduled for December.
"I would wish and hope anybody out there would talk to their kids about gun violence. Let them know it's not OK, it's not fun and games. There's no more cowboys and Indians... it's real life here," Vickers said. "These kids are not getting that message, not fast enough."