TUPELO • An officer with nearly 25 years experience in law enforcement remains in critical condition in a Tupelo hospital after being hit by a car on Jan. 13 in front of Shannon Primary School.
Johnny Patterson, 58, is a school resource officer at the school and the Verona Assistant Police Chief. He was standing in the four-laned Highway 45 in front of the school directing traffic as the school was letting out last Thursday.
Around 2:50 p.m., a motorist traveling north struck the back of his Lee County School District car, knocking it into him. He remains at the North Mississippi Medical Center. According to reports from the family, he suffered fractures in the neck and face. There was major trauma to the chest and stomach, forcing doctors to insert tubes to prevent his lungs from collapsing.
"He is still unconscious and in critical condition," said Verona Police Chief Marsenio Nunn. "The tests show some response on his left side, which is promising."
Officers from the Shannon Police Department and the Lee County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene. Since the incident happened on the four-lane, jurisdiction was transferred to the Mississippi Highway Patrol.
MHP Troop F spokesman Staff Sgt. Bryan McGee said the driver of the other car stayed on the scene and has been cooperating with the investigation. So far, no criminal charges have been filed and no citations issued. McGee said the incident is still under investigation.
The collision brought traffic to a halt in front of the school, delaying the dismissal of students. The school district had extra personnel on hand on Friday, Jan. 14, to help children cope with what they might have witnessed.
"We had extra people on campus Friday, school counselors, ministers and myself to support the faculty and students in dealing with this," said Lee County School Superintendent Coke Magee. "Obviously, everybody is praying for him and his family, and for his speedy recovery."
Patterson, who will turn 59 on Jan. 28, has worked in law enforcement for more than 24 years. He served as the Shannon Police Chief for four years in the early 2000s. In the summer of 2015, then Verona Police Chief J.B. Long promoted Patterson to assistant chief.
"He is a very good person and a very good officer," Long said. "He has the personality to get along with the community, to be out there and meet and greet the public."
When Long stepped down in 2019, Patterson served as Verona's interim chief for eight months before Nunn was promoted to chief in January 2020.
"He is a hands-on type of guy and very knowledgeable of the law," Nunn said. "The whole department looks up to him. He is definitely missed right now."
Lee County Coroner Carolyn Green has started an online fundraiser for the family to help pay for medical costs and other expenses while Patterson is hospitalized.
"I have known Johnny Patterson for many years," Green said. "Johnny has always been so very kind and helpful in any way possible."
She noted that even when he gets better, there be lengthy period of therapy and rehabilitation before he can go back to work.
Donations started flowing into the GoFundMe almost immediately. By Monday, it had already surpassed the $10,000 goal.