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West Virginia Trooper Stabs Man to Stop Drowning, Choking Attack

March 18, 2016  | 

Trooper First Class J.J. Cornelius is expected to make a full recovery from his injuries. (Photo: West Virginia State Police)
Trooper First Class J.J. Cornelius is expected to make a full recovery from his injuries. (Photo: West Virginia State Police)

West Virginia State Police say a trooper had to stab a man who tried to choke and drown the officer in a Randolph County creek.

Troopers said the incident started Wednesday afternoon when Trooper First Class J.J. Cornelius of the Elkins detachment was attempting to serve an arrest warrant for Nathaniel Wegman, 27, at Pond Creek, commonly known as Mill Creek.

Wegman, who was wanted on a burglary charge in Indiana, fled on foot. Cornelius was able to catch up with him in a stream, also known as Mill Creek. Wegman resisted arrested and assaulted Cornelius, causing him to fall and hit his head on the creek bottom, the release said.

Wegman then tried to choke and drown Cornelius, State Police said. The trooper couldn't reach his gun because he was pinned to the ground, but was able to get to his knife, which was used to stop the assault, the release said.

Wegman is now in custody in the hospital recovering from stab wounds, WCHS TV reports.

Comments (15)

Displaying 1 - 15 of 15

Leonard @ 3/18/2016 9:27 AM

This type of story infuriates me. Why was the officer trying to serve a warrant by himself? Why did he not call for backup? If it was determined that the subject was such a low level threat that only one officer was needed to issue the arrest warrant, why endanger himself by engaging in a foot pursuit? Several commenters on this board cry about the dangers of policing and how the public has no clue about those dangers. Its clear from this case that the officer needlessly placed himself in danger. It's this Dirty Harry/TV cop attitude that too many of our officers have. This officer needs a firm reprimand and some serious retraining.

Old VAlawdog @ 3/18/2016 10:05 PM

Actually no he doesn't Leonard. The problem with some in the public is for the most part they have no clue what goes on in LE. They watch TV shows and listen to the media that has no clue, only sensationalism. The suspect is wanted for a felony. The trooper was probably working in a county where they may have only one other trooper on duty, if that, and maybe four or five deputies. They are trying to cover a county over 1000 square miles in size, the largest in the state BTW. We have several counties here in VA they same way. Sometimes only one trooper working the entire county. You don't have the luxury of backup, due to the area you are covering / amount of officers on duty. This isn't like NYC or LA where you get the benefit of two man units. Would we like it, yes, but as some have commented who "pay our taxes," they would never approve it. So you try to use the training and tactics you've learned and make the arrest. Didn't work this time, but the trooper still has a duty to do.

RetiredSarge @ 3/19/2016 9:13 AM

Very well said Old VAlawdog! I began my career with a very small agency (only 12 officers on the department). YOU had to do what needed to be done since you often were by yourself (after 0100 hrs). Having retired from KCPD, with over 1200 officers, you never would have done some of the things by yourself that you did on small or rural agencies. Thanks for putting it in terms that everyone should be able to comprehend.

Ron Martinelli @ 3/19/2016 9:35 AM

Let me put all of this into perspective. I have worked in very large (2,200), medium (60) and very small - rural (10) officers agencies. With the exception of ambush, most officers get injured/killed because they violate basic officer safety principles, they get emotionally captured; and/or they feel compelled to take action, where there really is no mandate to do so. They have an emotional, rather than a studied response to resistance that puts them at risk. Officers need to balance risk v. reward, but some don't and it results in incidents like this. This mentality must change; especially in the current violent, anti-police environment if we are to reduce the numbers of our officers who are needlessly injured/killed.
As a 36 year police practices, officer safety and use of force trainer/court expert who analyzes cases all over the country, I find this aspect of police work "mentality" very frustrating.

Ron Martinelli, Ph.D., CMI-V
Forensic Criminologist/Police Expert

kevCopAz @ 3/19/2016 9:58 AM

Dr. Martinelli, I understand your point and "tomb stone courage" has always been a concern. Tactics are paramount in police work as far as safety goes. Yet there are times when an officer must act, the job is what it is, to protect citizens at the risk of ones own safety. Obviously this suspect was dangerous as proven by this assault on the officer, but as a wanted "burglary" suspect this is not the norm. If you took your observations to their logical conclusion officers would never arrest anyone while alone, never give chase or never risk their own safety. This is not what is reality. You are right, there are times when risk out weighs reward but its not an academic exercise, its reality. Leonard, I agree to an extent as I have said, but I find it telling that you spend all of your comments criticizing the Trooper and say nothing of the miscreant criminal in this incident. I have to say this is your usual pattern when it comes to your comments, rather anti-cop.

Leonard @ 3/19/2016 12:28 PM

@KevCopAZ: I don't understand your last statement, about me not criticizing the suspect. Frankly, it's irrelevant and it goes to the point that @Ron discussed. Granted there is limited information in this article, but this officer made the decision to take the action he did and those incorrect decisions caused him to get injured. He's lucky he didn't get himself killed. And to you other point that is the most concerning..."Officer must act". This is the mentality that causes injury to citizens and officers alike. I argue that there are very few circumstances where an officer has to act blindly. In some of those case, like Tamir Rice and John Crawford, we had innocent citizens killed because officers acted instead of rationally evaluating the environment and level of threat. I want officers to think and not act.

Moses @ 3/20/2016 10:11 PM

Well, folks, I'm a Retired Officer with 34 years of service, and a retired College Instructor with 19 years of teaching (LE courses). I've been the only City Street-Cop on the 3rd Shift, for several years, and many times the only Cop in the County. I've also been a Chief - a couple times. I believe it would be a good thing if we'd put more Officers on the street. That takes money. A whole lot of towns, cities, counties, and even States (look @ Illinois) simply don't have the money. I would wager that even some of those governmental entities that HAVE the money would rather "eat a worm" than to "give money to the Police." - OR, it's possible that some of those entities have a Departmental Chief or Upper Management that dictates by Policies and Procedures such things as Manpower, Over-Time to cover shifts, etc. There are many, many times that there is a "fly in the ointment", and I'd wager, again, that it's not the Street Officer. I'd say more, but I'm out of "CHARACTERs"

Chief 800 @ 3/21/2016 6:26 AM

In Maine, Can't speak for other states, we are mandated by law to attempt to apprehend a person with a warrant. My dept. is small and we work one man shifts. Some of our backups like State Troopers may be an hour away or not even able to respond. So we do the things that no one wants to do. We enter situations that sometimes unavoidable. No different than having to arrest a violent person who is or has committed domestic violence assault. Its a mandated arrest. I don't know of one State that has a "if they run you should or must let them go policy". Judges and street critics don't care if we get hurt. We certainly do. When something unexpected happens like an officer tripping then being violently attacked only a complete idiot would criticize the officer for trying his best to perform there duty. I guess the trooper was supposed to let the man kill him, then critics could complain how we spent too much money on his funeral. Ron glad to hear that you let everyone go who resisted arrest

Leonard @ 3/21/2016 10:07 PM

@Chief800: after reading your comment, I immediately thought of one of my favorite lines fromForest Gump. "Stupid is as Stupid does". I'm sure you operate in a tough environment, but I find it hard to believe that your community or the lawmakers would condone any one of your officers negligently putting themselves in harms way. What Ron was stating is simply this: Stop and think about the risk that your putting yourself in, before acting. The officer in this story did not do that and took actions that almost got him killed. Are you promoting that type of behavior from your charges if your in a leadership position. If you are, you're a sorry excuse for a leader. When I was in the Army, leaders were responsible for the safety of their troops. The excuses you exposed are just that...lame excuses. I hope Ron is successful in his training of officers and gets them to act safely without unnecessarily putting the public at risk.

Chief 800 @ 3/22/2016 11:29 AM

You obviously have not comprehended my comment. There are hundreds of agencies that are like mine or are like a lone trooper or deputy who have one officer at a scene. We can assess danger all we want. If there is a need for action we cant eat a snickers bar and ponder on what would Leonard do. The bottom line is the most dangerous call me may go on in an entire career may be a traffic stop. If we let every potential aggressive situation cause us to back off and do nothing, we are completely useless. I do teach tactical retreat if a situation gets out of control to the potential detriment of an officer. But we don't have ESP. Some aggression comes out of nowhere without warning. By the way I practice what I preach. I have made hundreds of solo arrests. I have also pulled back and called for a tactical team to arrive. What we cant assume is that just because a suspect is running, the situation will turn deadly. Sorry that you feel it is a lame excuse to do your duty.

J.Johnson-Retired LEO @ 3/25/2016 8:24 AM

Maybe Law enforcement when faced with a deadly situation should adopt the Monty Python approach, and that is to "Run away". Then there would be less injuries and death to both suspects and officers, this should please the Leonard's, the Dr.'s. and the police experts of the world, who both have never faced these situations other than reading about them. And then of course in the safety and security of their abode, pass judgment. Unless you have been an officer that has faced these same situations, your comments have no validity and are just less than expert opinions.

John R. Graham @ 3/25/2016 2:04 PM

The "real" world works differently than academia and forensic psychology world. In many areas you, a lone officer is all there is. Backup may be available only after getting it from fifteen to twenty minutes or more away. Policy and Procedures must be flexible, but also provide as much safety as possible.

Leonard @ 3/25/2016 2:16 PM

@J.Johnson. There's this new thing called tactical retreat. It something our officers should use more. It protects officers and suspects. Contrary to some attitudes, officers also have a duty to ensure the suspect gets to go home as well.

Sheriffs Explorer Sgt. @ 3/28/2016 9:58 AM

Leonard, so once again we are subjected to your idiotic comments, "the suspect gets to go home as well". Only if the suspect is compliant and doesn't try anything stupid. I'm a Sheriffs Explorer in a county of over 6,000 sq. mi. In the patrol district I live in, for an area of over 10,000 people, often theres only one deputy on duty at a time and one Police Officer for the City. Its a really rural area and I have heard before of a lone deputy going to someone's house to arrest them. Usually there's no trouble at all. Unfortunately idiots like Leonard and Percy like to cause trouble. If Leonard despises the Police so much why doesn't he move to a remote area of the world where there are no police. Only cannibals(yes Leonard, they still exist). There the Police won't bother you. But the cannibals will like you a lot. A whole lot.

Klaus @ 4/14/2016 6:20 PM

So many monday morning quarterbacks here. even a bozo with a phd that has clearly never done the job. anyone who has done the job knows that you work alone quite often. Luckily this Officer had tactics in mind and carried a knife. he was ready and he survived. I always carried several weapons with me and still do. I am reitred now for 16 years,

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