Injured trooper showing signs of improvement
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A State Police trooper who suffered a head injury on New Year's Eve while trying to stop a shoplifter is improving while in intensive care, police say.
Sgt. Aaron Nichols was taken off the ventilator Thursday while in the intensive care unit at Charleston Area Medical Center's General Hospital, said Sgt. Michael Baylous, State Police spokesman.
Nichols, a 15-year veteran of the State Police, was off duty Monday and shopping in the St. Albans Mall when Jennifer Garretson, 34, set off the front alarms in Goody's clothing store at the mall. Witnesses told police Nichols identified himself as an officer and chased the woman, trying to get her to stop, according to a complaint filed in Kanawha Magistrate Court.
He pursued Garretson to her gray 1993 Honda Accord. She got into the car and nearly struck Nichols, who jumped onto the trunk to try to minimize the impact. Witnesses told investigators the woman accelerated, trying to dislodge him from the vehicle, the complaint said.
One witness said Garretson "drove recklessly in a circle until Sgt. Nichols was thrown from the vehicle resulting in blunt force trauma to his head," according to the complaint. She fled the scene before first responders arrived.
Nichols was taken to CAMC General with a head injury. He had been on a ventilator and in and out of consciousness up until Thursday.
"Aaron is breathing on his own as they have weaned him off (the ventilator)," Baylous said. "(He's) active and alert a little more.
"Cpl. (Jim) Mitchell spoke to him this morning and he nodded his head that he understood."
Baylous said doctors are monitoring Nichols' breathing to ensure he doesn't need to go back on the ventilator.
Garretson turned herself in to authorities Wednesday. Troopers, investigating with St. Albans police, found Garretson's vehicle on Miracle Drive. A boyfriend in the area gave troopers her cellphone number and an investigator was able to reach her via text message.
Sgt. S.E. Wolfe told the woman to turn herself in. Garretson said she would surrender but wanted one day to say goodbye to her two children.
Garretson was charged with malicious wounding and remains at South Central Regional Jail.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at email@example.com or 304-348-4850.