The tragic shooting Tuesday evening that left a West Virginia State Police trooper dead and another fighting for his life in a Charleston hospital sadly shows there is no such thing as a routine day for law enforcement officers. Every day is fraught with danger. Death always is a possibility.
Details are beginning to emerge on what happened that evening on Interstate 79 at the Wallback exit near the Roane-Clay county line. At 7:25 p.m., dispatchers in Nicholas County called for officers to look for a recklessly driven white Chevrolet Silverado pickup northbound on I-79.
At 7:36 p.m., Cpl. Michael Lee Bailey and Trooper Eric Michael Workman, both on duty patrolling that section of the interstate, saw the truck stopped at a park-and-ride near the exit.
The troopers arrested Luke Baber, 22, of Oak Hill, W.Va. According to State Police Superintendent Jay Smithers, Baber was handcuffed and placed in the back of the cruiser.
Apparently the officers had not discovered during a pat down he had hidden a Hi-Point 9mm pistol in the front of his pants. Baber somehow managed to retrieve the gun and shoot the officers, killing Bailey and critically wounding Workman.
He then shot a tow truck driver who had been summoned by the officers to get the pickup. The tow truck driver managed to call 911 to tell them of the incident. Shortly after, Baber was killed by officers responding to that distress call, but not before wounding Roane County Deputy Sheriff John C. Westfall. Westfall was wearing body armor and his wounds were not life-threatening.
Our hearts go out to the families of these two men, both who were well-liked and respected by colleagues and friends. Bailey, 42, was a 16-year veteran of the State Police, all in Clay County. According to friends, he loved his job. He leaves behind three children, two under 6.
Workman, 26, is on life-support at Charleston Area Medical Center. He is a Clay County native, played baseball at West Virginia State College and was an avid outdoorsman. Workman has been a trooper since his graduation from the State Police Academy in 2011.
Pause for a moment to think about what you might have been doing at that time Tuesday evening: Watching television, walking the dog or maybe out for a run. Probably something done nearly every evening. There is no such thing as a routine day for these men and women. Every day when they leave home and say goodbye to their families there is the possibility they will not return.
This tragedy has hit hard members of the law enforcement community. We hope they know it is a tragedy not only for them but for every resident of the state. Every law-abiding citizen of West Virginia stands with them in this time of deep sadness.