COLUMBUS, Ohio — Less than a year ago, the Ross County Sheriff's Office was the site of a tragic shootout after a man fired at an on-duty sergeant, seriously injuring him. The man who fired the initial shots, 42-year-old Nicholas Mitchell, died after gunfire was returned.
Sgt. Eric Kocheran, the deputy who was shot, said that it's a day that will never leave his mind.
"We're improving every day. Every day is a challenge. The physical stuff is a lot better than it was nine months ago," Kocheran said. "The big thing is the mental health."
The shootout on Nov. 17, 2022 left Kocheran hospitalized for nearly a month. Mitchell was taken to a Chillicothe-area hospital where he died from his injuries.
Surveillance and body camera video of the incident shows Mitchell walking around the building and approaching a door on the back side before he knocks on a full-length window.
Mitchell then paces around the parking lot before Kocheran opens the door.
In Kocheran's body camera video, Mitchell asks for help and for Kocheran to get a couple more officers.
When asked why, Mitchell says somebody said they're going to hurt his family and they wanted him to hurt kids. He then says he can't do that, so he “has to do this” and pulls out a gun.
Kocheran responds by telling Mitchell multiple times to put the weapon down as he draws his gun.
Mitchell then fires a shot and Kocheran returns fire through the open door from inside the building. Multiple shots were fired before Mitchell falls to the ground.
Nine months have now passed since the shooting, and as Kocheran continues to recover, he has begun to effort an organization that aims to provide mental health support and resources to other first responders.
"I'm here. I'm fighting and I want to give back to my community," Kocheran said. "Ross County is a great county. The support that I've got from this community is amazing. It's never stopped. We're nine months later and it's never stopped."
Kocheran said he's also received letters of support from all over the country.
10TV's Richard Solomon sat down with Kocheran to talk about the day of the incident and where the idea for Kocheran Strong came from.
"When you have a tragic incident like I had, the floodgates open and you can't close them."
Kocheran said there were times as a law enforcement officer where he witnessed a terrible incident, and had to finish his shift — sometimes even having 10 hours of the shift left to go.
"I still have to compose myself for another 10 hours and not deal with this. So then, when I go home, I've got to deal with not just this incident, I have to deal with what was after it. That's the part where there needs to be changes in the system. It has to start somewhere and I want to be one of those folks that starts that."
Kocheran said they are beginning to make a list of mental health professionals in the area who would be able to talk to first responders whenever they would need help. All calls made would remain anonymous.