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.
At around 7:30 p.m., two state troopers, Cpl. Marshall Lee Bailey and Trooper Eric Workman, pulled over a pickup truck driven by Luke Baber, 20, of Oak Hill, for reckless driving at the Wallback Park and Ride off of I-79 in Clay County.
Baber was taken into custody and placed in the back of a state police cruiser. While the two troopers were awaiting a wrecker to tow Baber’s vehicle, Baber shot both officers with a 9mm pistol he had hidden in his possession when he was apprehended.
Both troopers were unresponsive when Kings Wrecker Service arrived on scene to tow away Baber’s vehicle. William Massey, driver of the wrecker,was shot in the arm by Baber who was using Workman’s gun by then, but was able to escape and call for help.
West Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Jay Smithers said that Bailey and Workman searched Baber before handcuffing and putting him in the back seat of their cruiser, but did not discover the 9mm handgun he had hidden. His hands were cuffed in front of him.
“They just missed it,” Smithers said.
Baber fled the scene on foot and was spotted a short time later by a Roane County deputy. The pair were involved in a subsequent shootout, ending in Baber’s death. The deputy sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
The 42-year-old Bailey, however, died from his injuries. He left behind two daughters and a son, ages 22, 6 and 4.
Workman was taken to CAMC, where he is in a coma and critical condition.
Smithers said that Baber stole the vehicle from Oak Hill, and was believed to be on his way to Morgantown to meet his sister, a student at West Virginia University.
Baber, according to Smithers, did have a criminal record. In 2009, he was charged with domestic battery, domestic assault, obstructing an officer and illegally possessing xanax.
West Virginia officials released statements regarding Tuesday night’s shooting.
“Joanne and I hold them (the victims) and their families in our prayers, and ask all West Virginians to join us,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said. “This tragedy reminds us of the sacrifices that our law enforcement officers make every day to keep us safe.”
Tomblin met with troopers and families during a visit to CAMC.
“Gayle and I were deeply saddened when we learned of this terrible incident and immediately prayed for the fallen officer, those who were injured, and their families,” U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said. “Our law enforcement and first responders perform an amazing job each and every day, never blinking in the sight of danger. We join with fellow West Virginians as we continue to keep these officers and their loved ones in our thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time.”
“Sharon and I are absolutely heartbroken to learn of last night’s tragic events,” U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller said. “Our law enforcement officers are the best, and when one falls in the line of duty, all of West Virginia grieves with them. Our thoughts and prayers—and indeed that of our entire state—are with those who were injured or killed last night, and their loved ones.”
Yesterday, Tomblin ordered all U.S. and state flags displayed at state facilities be immediately lowered to half-staff until further notice in honor of Bailey.
“The men and women who serve in uniform are always there for us and we can never take that for granted,” Tomblin said. “Today I ask all West Virginians, when you see law enforcement officers, please thank them. Take a moment to shake their hands and say ‘thank you’, because they work every day to keep our families and our communities safe.”
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.
“The thoughts and prayers of the West Virginia State Police are with the family of the fallen trooper and with those who were injured,” State Police Spokesman First Sgt. Michael Baylous said.
“I’d ask all West Virginians to pray for the family of Cpl. Bailey,” Smithers said. “I’d also ask folks to continue to pray for the other individuals who were injured.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.