Christopher Wooten was chasing a suspect on his motorcycle in Mecklenburg County on July 22, 2019, when he was 'seriously injured' in an accident.
A North Carolina state trooper received a hero's welcome on Tuesday as he returned home for the first time in over two years after getting paralyzed in a crash. According to PEOPLE, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol (NCSHP) revealed in a Facebook post that Trooper Christopher Wooten was chasing a suspect on his motorcycle in Mecklenburg County on July 22, 2019, when he was "seriously injured" after being hit by a pick-up truck. Days after the accident, NCSHP announced that Wooten had suffered a severe spinal injury, which left him paralyzed from the neck down.
More than two years after a devastating crash that seriously injured retired @NCSHP Trooper Chris Wooten, he is finally coming back home to North Carolina! Join us on Nov. 23 in Cramerton, NC as we welcome home our hero! pic.twitter.com/25STYYF6LU— NC Public Safety (@NCPublicSafety) November 22, 2021
Two and a half years later, Wooten returned home to Cramerton on Tuesday after he was cleared by doctors at Shepherd Center, an Atlanta-based rehabilitation facility, where he'd been recovering from his injuries. Speaking to WJZY, Wooten shared that while his time in Atlanta was memorable, he's ready to come back home. "Like Christmas 10 times over, we're really excited. It feels like a dream. We've been looking forward to this for so long. For it to finally be here is really amazing," he said. "We feel like little kids waiting for Christmas Day to get here," added his wife, Sharon Wooten.
The couple admitted that they're returning home to Cramerton from a place they never thought they'd end up. "It's tough, it's tough, I miss running, walking doing things I used to do," said Wooten, who is now retired. He revealed that he'd always dreamed of being a motorcycle officer with the North Carolina Highway Patrol. "He called me up and he said, ‘I can’t believe they’re paying me to ride a motorcycle'," said Sharon when Wooten got his dream job. His first assignment was to escort Mick Jagger to a Rolling Stones concert and photographs from that day later ended up giving him and Sharon a laugh when they needed it most.
Welcoming Chris & Sharon home is by far, one of my favorite reports of all time!— Allison Latos (@AllisonWSOC9) November 24, 2021
It gave me chills, brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of what's really important.@wsoctv
‘It’s overwhelming’: Community welcomes home paralyzed trooper Chris Wooten https://t.co/WBLw9YirEJ
"Our nurse looked at the picture, and she's like, 'Why do you have a picture with a bunch of troopers standing with this guy in handcuffs?' I said, 'What?' And I'm like that's Mick Jagger, and she's like, 'Who's that?'" shared Wooten. "It's funny how you take a lot of that for granted as well, when you're like that you don't think about how lucky you are just to do a simple walk around town. You don't appreciate it like maybe you should."
Home Stretch— Ken (@kenlemonWSOC9) November 23, 2021
A team of officers on motorcycles led the way as @NCSHP trooper Chris Wooten gets off of I-85 in Gastonia on a long ride from Georgia. @wsoctv has crews following the route and at Wooten’s Cramerton home. Watch us for the lastest on this happy homecoming. pic.twitter.com/yZjBWeHSJy
Wooten's family, co-workers and community have been staunch supporters of his throughout his recovery. On the two-year anniversary of the accident in July, the NCSHP—which has reportedly been providing monthly updates on his condition on their Facebook page—wrote: "Chris has been a symbol of courage and strength as he has progressed through his recovery after that frightful day. We have followed Chris's journey closely, and the strides that he has made over the last two years have been nothing short of astonishing!" The NCSHP also took the lead on organizing a special homecoming event for Wooten when the time finally came for his return to his Gaston County home, which has been redesigned to meet his current physical needs.
"Chris and the entire Wooten family have been a blessing to so many these past years and we are humbled to help him return home to North Carolina with a fitting reception," Colonel Freddy L. Johnson Jr., Commander of the State Highway Patrol, said in a released statement, reports WCNC. "To see friends, family, and strangers that were moved by his story come together in support is a testament to the spirit the Wooten family have exuded."