The suspect was pulled over at the Wallback park-and-ride off Interstate 79 around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, police said. The West Virginia Sheriffs’ Association said the man was being arrested for driving while under the influence.
State Police Capt. R.D. Stonestreet told WSAZ-TV the suspect got out of the cuffs, grabbed a gun and shot the troopers while in the back of their cruiser. One died at the scene and the other remained in critical condition Wednesday. The suspect then shot a tow truck driver who had come to pick up his vehicle and fled.
The tow truck driver was treated at the hospital and released early Wednesday, police said.
Stonestreet, who didn’t return telephone messages from The Associated Press, said the suspect hid in a ditch and ambushed a Roane County deputy who had joined in the search for him. The suspect was shot and killed, although it’s not yet clear from official statements who shot him.
None of the identities have been released.
Authorities initially said the suspect took one of the trooper’s guns during an altercation, but later said they are still investigating how he got the weapon.
Roane County Prosecutor Josh Downey said it does not appear that any Roane County authorities, including the injured deputy, fired any shots at the suspect.
The deputy was shot several times and is recovering after surgery, he said. Downey declined to identify the deputy, but said he was shot in both arms and in the chest, which was protecting by his bullet-proof vest.
“We’re praying for our deputy’s recovery ...” Downey said, adding a note of deep concern for the troopers.
The law enforcement community is tight in this rural county of about 15,000, he said. In all, fewer than 20 state troopers, deputies and city police patrol the area.
“They all know each other very well,” Downey said. “The only difference between them all is the color of their uniform.”
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said the outpouring of support from dozens of officers who came to a Charleston hospital where the injured were taken Tuesday was comforting to the wounded officers’ families.
“In a situation like this, they’re still in shock,” said the governor, who met with the families.
Tomblin declined to discuss the details of the shootings, saying State Police would brief the media later Wednesday.
“We sometimes forget that valuable services that police officers offer to the people of West Virginia,” Tomblin said. “They are out there, day in and day out 24 hours a day, doing what they do.”
Dozens of law enforcement officers converged on the small asphalt parking lot Tuesday night along the Roane-Clay county border. On Wednesday morning, seven cars were parked at the lot and there were no signs of a crime or police presence. No police tape. No broken glass. No indication of the struggle just 12 hours earlier.
It was the first fatal shooting involving a trooper in 19 years.
According to the State Police website, the last fatal shooting of an on-duty trooper was 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.
Associated Press writer Pam Ramsey contributed to this report from Charleston.