UPDATE: 02/06/2012: A man who was hit by a car after police say he stole from Walmart died Monday morning. The man, 26-year-old Brian Eric Wrenn, was from Staunton. He had been in a coma since the incident happened on January 25 but he passed away Monday morning. Wrenn was hit when he ran from police into Rosser Avenue.

A Staunton man is clinging to life after being hit by a car on a busy highway in Waynesboro, but that's only part of the story.  The victim is a shoplifting suspect - running from police at the time of the accident.

Police say the 26-year-old man suffered a severe head injury, and at last report was in a coma.  A Waynesboro officer gave chase Wednesday night, soon after the petty-larceny suspect ran from the Walmart store.  We're told that pursuit lasted less than five seconds.

Rosser Avenue is still lined with evidence of trauma, including bandages and packaging for neck brace.  The victim had run directly into the path of a vehicle along a 45-mile-an-hour stretch.

Captain K.L. Walker with the Waynesboro Police Department said, "He went up over the hood of the car, hit the windshield, and then over the rest of the car and landed."

Minutes earlier, around 8:30 Wednesday night, police say the man tried to steal a humidifier from the Waynesboro Walmart.  Confronted by employees, he ran toward the Goodwill store, then across the street to the Coyner Park Shopping Center, and finally the nearby Ruby Tuesday.  An officer spotted him coming out of the restaurant.

"The officer says stop.  The guy just takes off running, and the officer pursues him for like three seconds.  And the guy just darts out in front of traffic," said Walker.

A veteran Waynesboro officer nearly lost his life during a similar pursuit in 2005.  Officer Jesse Shaver was struck by a SUV, as he followed a suspect across Route 250.  In that case, there were severe injuries as well.

But Waynesboro police say their strict guidelines that govern vehicle pursuits don't apply to chases on foot.

Walker said, "The cardinal rule is not to put yourself at risk.  But you cannot control, you can never control what the suspect's going to do."

The unnamed victim was taken first to Augusta Health, then airlifted to the University of Virginia Medical Center.  The driver of the car that struck him was not hurt, and Waynesboro police say he will not face any charges.

Waynesboro Police Department
Press Release

The Waynesboro Police Department was called to Wal-Mart tonight at approximately 8:37 P.m. for a male shoplifter who had dropped a stolen humidifier and run from the store after being confronted.

Employees reported seeing the subject running towards Goodwill and then he was spotted running in the vicinity of Batteries Plus at which time the first officer arrived on the scene and began attempting to locate him in this area.

After negative results the officer went to the parking lot of Ruby Tuesday's and as he pulled into the lot the subject exited the restaurant and ran towards Rosser Ave. The officer began a foot pursuit and as the suspect crossed Rosser Ave. he was struck by a 1997 Saab traveling north in the far northbound lane sustaining what appears to be life threatening injuries.

The 26-year-old Staunton man was transported by rescue squad to Augusta Health Emergency Department and has subsequently been transferred to the University of Virginia Hospital via Helicopter.

No charges are expected for the 52-year-old Waynesboro man who was operating the SAAB and he reported no injuries.

This case remains under investigation.

Capt. Kelly Walker
Support Services Division
Waynesboro Police Department