UPDATE: Chesapeake police officer laid to rest

Published: Sep. 18, 2016 at 10:39 AM EDT
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UPDATE 10/22/16 @ 9:30 p.m.

IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) -- One month after being critically injured in a car crash on Route 7 in Chesapeake, Ohio, while on duty police officer Aaron Christian passed away Tuesday. Saturday, family, friends, community members, and first responders from around the region came to pay their respects to a fallen brother in uniform.

Hundreds gathered for the funeral service in the Ironton High School gymnasium.

Family members tell WSAZ being a police officer was Officer Christian’s dream and he loved serving a community that meant so much to him.

“He was everything you want to see in a law enforcement officer,” said Officer Christian’s uncle, Joe Webb. “He was kind, he was compassionate, he was understanding. If he met you today he’d shake your hand, if he saw you tomorrow you’d get a big hug.”

Webb said Officer Christian took his job very serious and served with pride, and wanted to make sure the citizens of Chesapeake knew they were being well taken care of.

“When he first became an officer in Chesapeake, I found a little note on the door one night and it said, ‘It’s Officer Christian. I just want you to know I checked your locks, and checked your doors to make sure everything was safe,’” said Webb. “I said ‘Aaron why don’t you let me make you some cards?’ and he said, ‘Oh no Uncle Joe, then it wouldn’t be personal. I want them to know I was here and I’m looking out for them.’ He loved to serve.”

Webb says Officer Christian got the itch to be a police officer when he was a little boy and a police officer let him turn the siren on.

“And from that day forward, that young boy knew what he was going to do,” said Webb.

Webb said serving Chesapeake was especially meaningful for Officer Christian.

“I have a local business in Chesapeake,” said Webb, “and every day when Aaron was on patrol, he’d always come by and no matter who I was outside talking to, he’d always roll his window down and click that siren on and yell, ‘Uncle Joe, I love you!’”

“It was his signature,” added Officer Christian’s uncle, James Osborne.

Family members say they’ve received messages from people not just from across the country, but from all over the world, asking for updates and sending thoughts and prayers.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Shane Fields, another relative of Officer Christian’s.

“He never, ever quit,” said Webb. “He fought, and fought, and fought.”

There’s still no word on what caused Officer Christian to lose control of his cruiser September 18.

The family says they plan to host events in Chesapeake in the future in Officer Christian’s memory.

Aaron Christian was 24-years-old.

UPDATE 10/20/16 @ 6 p.m.

IRONTON, Ohio (WSAZ) -- For the first time, the family of a Chesapeake police officer who died in the line of duty is sharing their story. Ofc. Aaron Christian died Tuesday morning, one month to the day that his police cruiser wrecked in the early morning hours.

"He was a good son, best I could have hoped for,” said his father Jack Christian. “He's going to be sorely missed by everyone."

Jack said his son wanted to be a police officer ever since he was 6 and a friend let him turn on a siren in a police cruiser. He made it, even if he wasn't the best of students.

"In grade school and junior high, he'd get grounded a lot, soon as the report card showed up," Jack remembers.

Megan Fields met Aaron at Summer Motion in Ashland in 2010, just after her 16th birthday. She'll never forget his reaction when he found out she was pregnant, soon after they had broken up.

"I was only 19. I was scared to death,” Fields said. “He wasn't upset at all. He was the most excited I've ever seen to be about being a future dad."

That didn't change with Alaina's birth, now a bubbly and friendly 2-year-old.

"She looks just like her and that was his favorite thing ever," she said.

The ordeal for Jack began about 3 a.m. on Sept. 18 with a knock at the door.

Aaron's cruiser was horribly mangled. Jack believes the first of several miracles was that Aaron survived and could talk to paramedics on the way to the hospital. But of all things, it was water in his lungs that was life-threatening.

Support poured in, even from a mother who Aaron arrested six weeks earlier.

"Without you arresting me that day, I probably wouldn't be alive here today," the letter states.

The woman, who WSAZ is choosing not to identify, had been strung out on heroin at the time. But now she was writing, 49 days clean and sober and counting.

"I just wanted you to know that you really do save lives and you saved mine," she wrote. “Because of you, my story isn't over. I just wanted to say thank you once again."

Jack said Aaron battled back from near death several times, in a way he believes is another miracle. But things changed, even as it looked like he was getting closer to being brought out of his medically-induced coma.

"Monday, a week ago, he had the massive stroke and it pretty much did him in more or less,” said Jack.

Years ago, Jack hadn't wanted Aaron to be a police officer. But his son was stubborn.

"We weren't crazy about it, but he got the job in Chesapeake and I felt, 'Well, it would be a little safer than most places.' You're doing what you want to do, not many people get to do that,” he acknowledges. “He loved it."

The flag is at half-staff Thursday with a black ribbon at the Chesapeake town hall. Flowers and another ribbon mark the spot east of town which proved fatal.

To this day, no one knows what happened.

"I don't really care what happened,” said Jack. “I've seen pictures but I don’t know I'll ever be able to drive by the spot or not. I don't want to see it."

He’s got nothing but thankfulness for everyone who helped his family.

“We are so grateful to everybody, all the prayers and food, hugs and cries,” he said. “I can’t thank everybody enough.”

But it’s the pictures, the letters, the memories and the daughter that will keep Aaron’s story alive.

“He made me so proud,” said Jack. “He always worried about that, that I want you to be proud of me. I am."

Aaron was a 2010 graduate of Ironton High School.

A viewing is set for Saturday morning from 9 to 12, followed by the funeral at noon. Both are at the high school gym and open to the public.

Following the service, there will be a procession through Chesapeake on Third Avenue on the way to the cemetery.

UPDATE 10/18/16 @ 10 p.m.

CHESAPEAKE, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A police officer who's been in critical condition for a month lost his life Tuesday morning.

Chesapeake Officer Aaron Christian died at a hospital in Huntington.

The 24-year-old had been in critical condition since an accident in the early morning hours of Sept. 18, when his cruiser went off state Route 7 in Chesapeake.

Emergency responders accompanied the family on a procession from Cabell Huntington Hospital to Phillips Funeral Home in Ironton.

Randy Thompson with the Proctorville Police Department was with the family praying overnight.

"It was a really difficult time, but we saw how much of a fighter Aaron really was," Thompson said. "The procession just kind of showed everybody else how much we felt about him, how much we loved him, how much we cared about him, and how much of a difference and a change he's made in our lives."

Shane Fields is the grandfather of Christian's daughter.

"It'd be easy to think of this as a hole in your life, but it's not," Fields said. "He's bridged so many people and so many lives together that otherwise I don't think would have been affected in this way."

Christian joined the Chesapeake Police Department in the fall of last year. He had previously served in Coal Grove.

"We all ought to emulate Aaron's life and how he treated other people," Thompson said, "and we ought to live our lives treating the public the way he treated them."

No date has been announced for his services yet.

UPDATE 10/18/16 @ 1 p.m.

CHESAPEAKE, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A police officer who has been in the hospital after a car accident has died.

According to the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department, Chesapeake officer Aaron Christian died Tuesday.

Christian was critically injured after an on-duty car accident in the early morning hours of Sept. 18.

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE 9/19/16 @ 10 p.m.

CHESAPEAKE, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A candlelight vigil was held Monday night for the Chesapeake police officer who was badly hurt after losing control of his cruiser early Sunday morning.

Many who showed up for the service at the Triangle Park were fellow members of the law enforcement community in Lawrence County.

"The community is going to rally around him," former Chesapeake police chief Lenny Abrams said. "I know his law enforcement family is. We'll be there with him every step of the way and every day."

Friends had visited the officer, Aaron Christian, at the hospital before the vigil. They say he is showing signs of improvement but still unable to speak.

"If you know Aaron, you love him," Deputy Chief Frank Meehling with the Chesapeake Fire Department said. "He's just that type of guy."

Troopers say Christian hit a tree, utility pole, and guardrail, and was ejected from the car and landed upside down in a creek.

Christian's father attended the service and thanked those in the crowd for their prayers and support.

"It's just awesome," the father told the crowd. "I had no idea he was cared about like this. This just warms my heart, and I wish I could hug everybody."

Abrams created a GoFundMe account to help pay for Christian's medical expenses.

They've also begun organizing several fundraisers, including a poker run on Oct. 1, which is set to begin at the Chesapeake Police Department.

Investigators were back at the scene Monday, working to determine exactly what caused the crash.

UPDATE 9/19/16 @ 6:55 p.m.

CHESAPEAKE, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A Chesapeake Police officer is still in the hospital after troopers say he lost control of his cruiser early Sunday morning.

According to troopers, Officer Aaron J. Christian, 24, hit a tree, utility pole, and guardrail before flipping upside down in a creek embankment just after 2:30 a.m.

“I’ve seen all kinds of wrecks on this little half block,” said Chesapeake resident Tom Taylor.

Taylor says he’s seen crashes and fender-benders on the stretch of Route 7 just west of Chesapeake all the time, and though the crash involving Officer Christian may be one of the worst one he’s seen, he doesn’t think it will be the last.

“I’ve seen cars go through the house across the street,” Taylor said. “Actually in the house because of wrecks. I’ve seen them knock cars up into the driveway. I mean, it's just terrible. This is a terrible place right here.”

Taylor lives just next door to the yard where the cruiser hit the tree and utility pole and says a split second could have made the difference in the cruiser hitting his house.

“It would have just took a split second, and he could have wiped this front porch off or whatever and the house next door.”

There’s still no word on what caused Sunday morning’s crash.

Investigators were back at the scene Monday working to figure out what exactly happened. Taylor says he believes there could be multiple factors into what causes crashes in the area -- one being an odd bump about 50 yards from where the crash occurred. That is also the exact area where the speed limits drops from 55 mph to 35 mph.

Officials with District 9 of the Ohio Department of Transportation tell WSAZ they are aware of the bump in the road and they are working on a way to fix it.

“I can actually hear sometimes what sounds like a bumper dragging or something they're going so fast,” Taylor said.

Taylor says the area also has a very dense deer population coming off a hill side near the road that people don’t realize.

Officer Christian remains in the hospital in critical condition.

A prayer vigil is set for 8 p.m. Monday in Chesapeake at Ezra Gibson Park in Chesapeake.

UPDATE 9/18/16 @ 7 p.m.

CHESAPEAKE, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A Chesapeake Police officer is in critical condition after Troopers say he lost control of his cruiser and hit a tree, utility pole, and guardrail before landing upside down in an embankment just after 2:30 Sunday morning.

Without stopping to think Shane Fuller and his friend Tony immediately sprang into action when they heard Officer Aaron Christian’s, 24, cruiser go airborne.

“There wasn’t time to be scared,” Fuller tells WSAZ of when he went to help.

Fuller says Officer Christian was in a nearby creek when he and his friend went to see what they could do. “The police officer was face down in the creek and we pulled him out got him turned over, he was somewhat breathing.”

Witnesses say debris from the cruiser scattered all over the road, even hitting a nearby house.

Former Chesapeake Police Chief Lenny Abrams says Officer Christian always takes pride in serving the Chesapeake community and what happened is a terrible tragedy.

“He’s the very definition of a community police officer,” says Abrams. He’s what every police chief dreams of. He gets out there and gets involved in the community and he really truly cares about the people that he serves.”

Abrams says he was at the scene shortly after the crash and says it was a tough scene for him to see.

“I became very emotional,” says Abrams. “He’s like a brother to me, always will be. It’s hard to look at that.”

Fuller says the cruiser was on fire when he and his friend went to help. He says he was aware of the danger that the cruiser could explode but if the tables were turned, he believes Officer Christian would have helped him.

“When I went around here and he said he saw the officer, there was a point where I was scared to go down there because you see in the movies and everything, cars blowing up all the time. I mean I knew I had to go down there.”

There’s no word on what caused the crash, which remains under investigation by the Ohio State Patrol.

ORIGINAL STORY 9/18/16 @ 10:39 a.m.

CHESAPEAKE, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A Chesapeake Police officer is in critical condition after Troopers say he lost control of his cruiser and rolled over in an embankment just after 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning.

Troopers with the Ironton Post of the Ohio State Patrol say Officer Aaron J. Christian, 24, lost control on Route 7 just outside of Chesapeake.

According to a media release, the cruiser hit a tree, utility pole, and guardrail before overturning in the embankment.

Officer Christian was taken to a nearby hospital where his injuries are listed as critical.

Ohio State Patrol is investigating the crash.

Keep clicking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.