Parkersburg police shoot armed suspect

PARKERSBURG – Parkersburg Police officers shot a suspect who reportedly had a gun pointed at one of them in a residential neighborhood Tuesday afternoon.

Christopher Paul Johnson, 41, of 2503 Lincoln Ave., Parkersburg, was reportedly taken to a Morgantown hospital, but neither Ruby Memorial nor Mon General had him listed as a patient Tuesday evening. West Virginia State Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident in which two officers opened fire on him.

Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin said Johnson exited his sport-utility vehicle after it was stopped around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday by a cruiser driven by Officer M.L. Bosley and an unmarked vehicle driven by Lt. G.D. Nangle.

“Mr. Johnson, he exits his vehicle and immediately draws down on Lt. Nangle,” Martin said.

Both officers had their weapons drawn and ordered Johnson to put his gun down, Martin said. He did not comply, and the officers fired multiple times.

“Based on our knowledge of his criminal history and some information we’d received … he was not willing to go back to prison,” Martin said.

Martin said he is not sure if Johnson fired on officers first.

“Regardless of him firing or not, him presenting the weapon, turning it at the officers, that did (justify) deadly force on their part,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate that it ended this way, but they did what they had to do,” Martin said. “And I support them 100 percent.”

A resident of the neighborhood, who asked not to be identified, said he witnessed the incident unfold. He said the suspect advanced on one of the officers with his gun drawn, even as the officer ordered him to stop.

“I think the officer had to shoot in self-defense,” the resident said. “He was visibly upset after he shot him.”

Johnson was taken by ambulance to Camden Clark Medical Center’s Memorial Campus and later moved to a facility in Morgantown, said Tim Brunicardi, director of marketing and public affairs for Camden Clark.

The shooting took place in the intersection just outside Joan Fazio’s Washington Avenue home. Fazio said she heard sirens, then gunshots.

“I just heard, like, four or five gunshots,” she said.

Nacodie Barrows, who lives a few houses away on 20th Street, heard the commotion and went outside to see what was happening.

“I heard about six gunshots,” said Barrows, 18. “And then I looked outside and I (saw) a bunch of cops going down the street.”

It’s not the kind of thing Barrows expected to see near his home.

“I’ve never actually heard gunshots going off before,” he said. “This is like a really quiet neighborhood, so it surprised me.”

The incident began around 1:23 p.m. Tuesday when three plainclothes officers followed up on information about the location of “a wanted suspect we had been looking for since April,” Martin said.

That suspect was identified as Johnson, who was wanted on a felony charge of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance in connection with an investigation by the Parkersburg Narcotics and Aggressive Crime Enforcement Task Force and Washington County’s Major Crimes Task Force.

In late April, a large amount of marijuana, some cocaine and cash were recovered during a search of Johnson’s residence, police reported.

When officers attempted to arrest him on that warrant Tuesday in the area of Andrew and Bird streets, they were briefly distracted by some residents of the neighborhood and Johnson drew a gun and pointed it at one of the officers, Martin said. Johnson had been sitting inside a parked SUV when police saw him, Martin said.

“The officer was not able … to draw his weapon,” the chief said.

The plainclothes officers called in a be-on-the-lookout alert, and about three minutes later, Bosley spotted Johnson’s blue SUV heading north on Plum Street. Nangle was traveling on Washington Avenue at the time, and the officers initiated a traffic stop.

For more than an hour after the shooting, Johnson and Nangle’s vehicles remained where they’d stopped – Johnson’s mostly in the intersection on Plum, Nangle’s sedan a few feet shy of it on Washington.

State Police troopers were walking the scene, gathering evidence. A number of Parkersburg Police officers were on scene as well, along with Wood County sheriff’s deputies.

The State Police are conducting the investigation because a Parkersburg officer was the shooter, Wood County Prosecutor Jason Wharton said. Parkersburg Police will also conduct an internal investigation, Martin said.

“Both of the officers will be temporarily reassigned to administrative duties while an investigation into this matter is completed,” Martin said in an email. “This is in accordance with department policy to remove the involved officers from their normal duties to ensure that policy was followed and that they may be evaluated and cleared for duty,” Martin said in the email.

It’s the second shooting of a suspect by a Parkersburg officer this year.

On Jan. 14, 24-year-old Steven Lewis Pfalzgraf died after being shot by Parkersburg Police Detective P.M. Edelen in the parking lot of Grand Central Mall in Vienna. Edelen and other officers were in the mall food court for a Homeland Security training exercise when a man stole a woman’s purse and fled, with Pfalzgraf, to Pfalzgraf’s car.

When another officer attempted to grab the keys, Pfalzgraf began to drive, dragging him along. After the officer got loose, Pfalzgraf turned the car toward Edelen, who fired multiple times.

An internal review cleared Edelen of wrongdoing. Wharton said in March he planned to present the case to the grand jury, as has been his practice in cases involving law enforcement officers, even if he does not believe a crime has been committed.

On Tuesday, he said that is still his intent, but the final portion of the State Police report on that incident wasn’t received until last month and a grand jury has not been called since then.

“It has been my practice as prosecuting attorney to present any officer involved in a shooting to a grand jury regardless of the findings of the investigating agency,” Wharton said in an email. “This allows the grand jury, which is composed of 16 members of the public, to review the investigation. The grand jury review process in this type of case provides more transparency and greater confidence in the judicial system.”

(City Editor Jess Mancini contributed to this story.)