‘It’s overwhelming’: Paralyzed state trooper returns home to hero’s welcome

CRAMERTON, N.C. — Chris and Sharon Wooten can’t stop smiling. For the first time in nearly 2 1/2 years, the couple will celebrate Thanksgiving at home in Cramerton, North Carolina.

They’ve been in Atlanta since July 2019. Chris was a North Carolina Highway Patrol officer when he was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident while chasing a suspect in Mecklenburg County. The accident left him paralyzed from the neck down.

Because Wooten now gets around by wheelchair, the Wootens’ Cramerton home had to be completely renovated for his arrival.

He’s been in Atlanta in rehabilitation trying to recover.

“It’s going to be bittersweet tears leaving here, even though we are so excited to go home,” Sharon said.

As they began the journey home on Tuesday, they were joined by many friends along the way -- an escort of troopers from Georgia and North Carolina led them. There were banners, signs, flags and blue lights lining the route.

People were ready to welcome the Wootens home hours before the procession even arrived. They said they wanted Wooten to know he is loved and certainly has been missed.

Before arriving in Cramerton, Trooper Wooten stopped and got out of his van to greet dozens of troopers lined up at a rest stop on Interstate 85 near Kings Mountain. Chopper 9 Skyzoom showed troopers in uniform speaking with Wooten, some giving him hugs to welcome him back.

The motorcade was made up of officers from Greensboro, Charlotte, and Gaston County. They traveled I-85 to Cramerton, driving beneath several fire trucks parked on bridges overlooking the passing procession. Highway Patrol motorcycles rode side by side in the left lane of the highway, followed by the rest of Wooten’s escort.

All had their lights flashing.

Law enforcement blocked traffic on the streets lining the path of the motorcade.

“It’s exciting for our town and county that we’re welcoming home one of our local heroes that nearly gave his life in the line of duty,” said Gaston County Commissioner Ronnie Worley.

Despite all they’ve endured, the Wootens remain positive and are grateful for the support they’ve been shown.

“A lot of times you wonder why this happened,” Chris said. “For all the people we’ve met, they’ve just been so good to us. (It) makes you wonder maybe that’s why. It has really made us humble and thankful for all the support.”

Organizers expected a large turnout for the Wootens’ homecoming and they were not disappointed -- residents lined the streets starting almost immediately after the motorcade left the highway. Many carried flags and signs and waved at the passing cars. A few people left their houses to pay their respects to the Wootens.

The crowd included people who have known Wooten for years and others who have been captivated by his story and praying for his recovery.

When the Wootens arrived, they were greeted by their friends and family, who had decorated their home with flags lining the sidewalk, blue ribbons and posters too with phrases like “Welcome Home Chris” and “Wooten Strong.”

“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,” said Colonel Freddy L. Johnson Jr., Commander of the State Highway Patrol. “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.”

Chris and Sharon Wooten were kind enough to invite Channel 9′s Allison Latos to be the only reporter to speak to Wooten at his incredible homecoming.

“It’s good to be home,” Wooten said. “It’s hard to believe that everybody’s done this for me. It’s overwhelming.”

(WATCH BELOW: Paralyzed trooper, wife open up about life after serious crash)