Aaron Nichols has worked as a police officer for 15 years. But of all the titles he's ever held, he says "Daddy," is the most important.
"It came close in December of not only me never seeing my daughter again but her never seeing me again," said Sgt. Nichols, with the West Virginia State Police.
Nichols was the victim in a hit-and-run last New Year's Eve. While at the St. Albans Mall, Nichols witnessed Jennifer Garretson shoplifting from Goody's.
Nichols, who was off-duty at the time, ran after Garretson as she fled to her vehicle in the parking lot. He claims he identified himself as a State Police officer. When he tried walking behind the car, Garretson reportedly threw the vehicle in reverse.
"Could you end up in a fight? Yeah, you could end up in a fight and anything like that. But I never, for one second, expected her to hit me with her car," said Nichols, in one of his first interviews since the incident.
Nichols said he grabbed onto the car, only to be thrown off seconds later. Garretson drove away that night, but she surrendered to authorities two days later in Institute, WV. She pleaded guilty to malicious wounding Monday.
According to WVSP spokesman First Sgt. Michael Baylous, law enforcement is a 24/7 job. He said officers are obligated to intervene whenever they witness a crime. That's why Nichols said he regrets nothing.
"We learn early on, we see a crime, we react," Nichols said.
The officer, who spent almost a month at Charleston Area Medical Center, suffered from severe head trauma. He lost his ability to taste and smell; he also wears a hearing aid after major hearing loss.
As he watched Garretson enter the guilty plea Kanawha County Court, Nichols said he definitely experienced his closure.
"I gain nothing by having resentment," Nichols said. "I've looked forward to some closure one way or the other, whether it's by trial or a plea agreement."
Nichols is currently serving light duty at the South Charleston detachment, but he hopes to don his uniform again in the nearby future. Nichols' parents, who live in Clay County, also helped him at home during his recovery.
"I have gotten to spend a lot of time with my wife and daughter and family," he said.
Garretson's sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 9. She could face between 2 and 10 years in prison.