CHARLESTON (AP) — A West Virginia state trooper and a suspect were killed by gunfire during a traffic stop Tuesday night in the first fatal shooting involving a trooper in 19 years. Another trooper was seriously wounded and a sheriff’s deputy and tow-truck driver also were hurt, authorities said.
Two troopers saw the suspect driving erratically and pulled his vehicle over about 8 p.m. at the Wallback park-and-ride off Interstate 79 in Clay County, 37 miles east of Charleston, said West Virginia State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous.
Authorities indicated earlier that the suspect took one of the trooper’s guns during an altercation, but Baylous said where the suspect got the weapon from was under investigation.
“That’s very possible,” Baylous said. “I’m not ready to say anything about that yet.”
Baylous said one trooper was killed and another was wounded during a shootout. The suspect fled and was spotted a short time later by a Roane County deputy and the pair were involved in a subsequent shootout. The suspect was killed and the deputy was injured.
A tow truck driver also was shot. Baylous didn’t know why the tow truck was at the scene.
He did not release the identities of those involved, pending notification of family.
“This being a small rural area, we can’t put the names out until we get the chance to talk to everybody,” Baylous said.
The wounded trooper was taken to Charleston Area Medical Center’s General Hospital and Baylous said he was in very serious condition. The spokesman said the deputy had non-life threatening injuries, and he didn’t know the extent of the tow truck driver’s injuries.
A road near the park-and-ride remained closed late Tuesday night. Agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were responding to the scene, bureau spokesman George Huffman said.
“This tragedy reminds us of the sacrifices that our law enforcement officers make every day to keep us safe,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said in a statement Tuesday night
According to the State Police website, the last trooper fatally shot on duty occurred in April 1993, when Trooper Larry G. Hacker in Harrisville was killed while responding to a dispute between two neighbors. Suspect Dennis Ferguson, 67, of Pullman, later killed himself in jail.
In 2007, a state trooper died after losing control of his cruiser on state Route 9 in Charles Town. Trooper B.W. Linn was responding to another trooper who was involved in a foot pursuit of a suspect at a convenience store.
The State Police website lists 38 previous trooper deaths since 1920 in which 18 involved shootings and 15 others involved traffic accidents.