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The Minnesota soldier who watched in horror as a fellow recruiter was dragged by the SUV of a half-blind man last week said his badly hurt friend is lucky to be alive.
Staff Sgt. Michael Stroud said he and his partner, Sgt. First Class Travis Torgerson, were crossing the street near their office in Roseville, Minn., last Tuesday when Stroud was struck by the SUV and thrown 15 feet.
When Stroud looked up, Torgerson was being dragged behind the speeding Jeep SUV, screaming, his foot stuck in its undercarriage.
“When I saw him get dragged off by the vehicle, I thought, ‘Holy s---, he just died,’ ” Stroud, 29, told Army Times.
Torgerson, 42, survived perhaps only because he held onto a rear windshield wiper to lift his torso, saving his head and back from grinding against the street.
“If he hadn’t done that, he probably would be dead,” Stroud said.
Witnesses said the driver, Enrico Darius Taylor, stopped and left the SUV to try to dislodge Torgerson, according to police. When that failed, Taylor got back in the SUV and kept driving before repeating the attempt without success.
Taylor ran a red light and then a stop sign before Torgerson was able to free himself.
Torgerson’s backside was “ground to the bone,” according to the criminal complaint. His tailbone and several ribs were broken, along with bones in his legs, ankles and right heel.
Stroud said he and his colleagues called 911 and tailed the SUV to where they found Torgerson lying, battered but conscious, nearly a mile from where Taylor hit him.
“I was happy he was alive, that he was screaming in pain because it meant he wasn’t dead,” Stroud said.
An emergency room nurse also followed the SUV and administered first aid, the injured recruiter’s father, Joe Torgerson, told Army Times.
Torgerson’s ragged, blood-stained uniform and left boot, its heel ground away, were on display at a Roseville police press conference last Thursday.
The elder Torgerson said his son’s long road to recovery continues this week with several skin graft surgeries. He remained in intensive care after doctors put a plate in his right heel and two rods in his right leg.
“He’s not going to be the same because of these injuries, which are going to be long-lasting and painful,” said Stroud, who visits his buddy often.
As a decorated veteran of deployments to Bosnia, Saudia Arabia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq without incident, it is unfair that Torgerson may leave the Army unable to walk normally, his father said.
“To go to some pretty bad places, without a scratch, and come home to a desk job and have this happen,” he said.
The family has launched a website to collect money on his behalf, “travis-torgerson.com” and a “Benefit for Travis Torgerson” Facebook page.
Stroud described Torgerson, who is married to a soldier, as a caring father of two small children and a father figure to young recruiters.
By contrast, police described Taylor, 52, of Saint Paul, as having an extensive criminal history that dates back to 1993. He has been convicted of robbery, making terroristic threats and felony drug charges, among other offenses.
Taylor’s son told the Pioneer Press that his father is blind in one eye and should not have been driving. The son, Lirico Fennell, said Taylor did not mean to hurt anybody, the newspaper said.
Roseville police quickly found the SUV abandoned and linked it to Taylor, who first denied knowing anything about the vehicle and collision. The criminal complaint said Tayor later admitted that he “freaked out because my license was suspended,” and the SUV was uninsured.
Taylor told police he hit Torgerson by accident, and when they told him how far he had dragged Torgerson, Taylor “started to cry,” according to the criminal complaint.
The complaint quoted Taylor as saying, “I turned the corner coming up the hill. I got a contact in, the light blinded me, I didn’t see him, he stepped in front of me, it was too late.”
Taylor allegedly denied using any illegal drugs or alcohol the day of the incident but said he had used cocaine earlier in the week, the complaint said.
Taylor was charged with two counts of criminal vehicular operation, which carry a maximum sentence of five years, and one misdemeanor count that carries a one-year maximum sentence.
“This defendant displayed a blatant disregard for the life of both victims and he is clearly a threat to our community,” said Ramsey County attorney John Choi. “We will seek to hold the defendant accountable for his actions and pursue justice for the victims and our community.”