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UPDATE: Virginia state trooper injured in high-speed pursuit set to return home

Wes Bunch • Jun 8, 2013 at 5:02 PM

GATE CITY — A Virginia state trooper who suffered spinal cord injuries in the line of duty during an April high-speed pursuit is set to return home to family and friends in Scott County Saturday morning after finishing treatment in Atlanta.

According to several local law enforcement sources, James C. Lawson, 41, is expected to depart the Shepherd Center by Virginia State Police helicopter and arrive at the Gate City High School football field between 11:30 a.m. and noon on Saturday.

Gate City Mayor Frances Perry said Saturday will be declared "Jamie Lawson Day" in the town to commemorate his arrival home.

Lawson's superior officer, VSP 1st Sgt. M.R. Willis said family, friends and colleagues are eager for the 13-year state police veteran to return home safely.

"We're tickled to death that he's coming back home," Willis said. "And I know that Jamie is excited to be back home with his family too."

Lawson, a Gate City native who also serves as the town's assistant volunteer fire chief, has been receiving treatment at the Shepherd Center since April 18, when he was admitted for a spinal cord injury he sustained in a high-speed pursuit and head-on collision a week prior.

Since being admitted to the center, Lawson has undergone an extensive in-patient and out-patient rehabilitation program overseen by a team of doctors and therapists.

In May, the Center reported that Lawson had taken his first steps since the wreck with the assistance of electronic stimulation.

Larry Bowie, a spokesman for the Shepherd Center, described Lawson's progress over his 50 days of treatment as "remarkable."

"He is really making a remarkable recovery," Bowie said. "He really excelled at our inpatient and day programs. He was one of the favorites of the team here. A really nice guy, who was really motivated and eager to recover.

"His team will miss him, he's a very motivated person and it was really a pleasure for them to work with him."

Bowie said Lawson went from not having use of his left leg to being able to walk with the assistance of a cane or crutches.

The fact Lawson has made such progress came as no surprise to Willis.

"He's been positive about this from the very beginning and I can't say enough about the fact his attitude has been outstanding through this whole thing," Willis said. "He's lifted people up around here because his attitude is so good. He's a determined individual and if there's something that can be done, he'll do it."

That motivation and determination was driven in part by the support of Lawson's family and friends, and the outreach from those back home in Gate City and Scott County.

"I know that Trooper Lawson expressed on many occasions that he had an outpouring of support from back home," Bowie said.'It really helped him along in his recovery knowing that people's thoughts and prayers were with him. It really motivated him."

Lawson also received support from members of the Georgia State Police who paid him regular visits.

"At the same time he had a lot of support from Georgia troopers as well," Bowie said. "Many stopped and visited and offered kind words. It's a brotherhood and they take care of their own. It doesn't matter that he's a trooper from another state, members of law enforcement really look out for each other."

The effort made by Georgia state police to assist Lawson during his treatment was not lost on local members of law enforcement, Willis said.

"I can't say enough the Georgia State Patrol for the fact they went by to check on him nearly every day," Willis said. "I can't thank those guys enough, they are a fine organization. They treated him like they were one of theirs.

"Law enforcement is all one big family, it doesn't matter if it's state or local, if one of our's is down we look out for them."

Willis said his colleagues also appreciated the concern and support of those from those in the region who both did and did not know Lawson.

"There's no possible way to thank all of the people who have had some sort of impact on the situation that Jamie is in," Willis said. "We just appreciate everyone so much."

Benefit ride and lunch: A benefit lunch and motorcycle ride to raise money to help Lawson and his family defray ongoing medical costs will be held in the Gate City High School/Middle School parking lot Saturday. Food from Texas Roadhouse will be provided beginning at 11 a.m. A $5 donation for food is requested. The benefit motorcycle ride, which was originally scheduled for June 2, is set to leave from the parking lot following Lawson's arrival and the completion of lunch. The ride is free, although organizers said a donation of any amount will be appreciated. While geared towards motorcycles, vehicles of any type can participate, organizers said. Drawings for door prizes will also be held before the ride.

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