Three young people at the Grand Central Mall learned the hard way how their actions can have mortal consequences.
A suspect, John Ragalyi of New Matamoras, is believed to have stolen a purse from a woman in the food court where two Parkersburg Police detectives, participating in a law enforcement traning program with other officers, saw the strong-arm robbery.
They chased the man out into the parking lot where the suspect jumped into a car with two other people.
An officer, Detective J.M. Stalnaker, attempted to take the keys out of the ignition, but was dragged by the escaping car.
After he freed himself, the driver, Steven Lewis Pfalzgraf, 24, of Parkersburg, pointed the car toward Detective P.M. Edelen and accelerated.
Edelen, to protect himself and other innocent people, shot at the driver. Pfalzgraf was killed.
Two people in the car, Ragalyi and his wife, Jenna Ragalyi, ran away. They eventually turned themselves in, but were released until authorities can determine whether felony or misdemeanor charges will be filed.
Edelen and Stalnaker were among officers at the mall participating in an observation exercise for a surveillance class through the Homeland Security Office. Both identified themselves as police officers.
Our sympathies are with Pfalzgraf's family, but we are relieved Edelen, Stalnaker or an innocent bystander were not killed. The officers acted correctly and courageously and thank God they went home to their families.
But we do not believe the officers will come out of this unaffected. Despite all of their training, it can't be easy to live with the knowledge that their action-no matter how justified-was responsible for ending a life.
But the officers didn't make the decisions that led to Tuesday's tragic chain of events.
That belongs to Pfalzgraf and the Ragalyis, who made one bad decision after another. All had several opportunities to end this before the final outcome, but instead, chose to escalate the situation. Steven Pfalzgraf paid the ultimate price for his mistakes. Unfortunately, it will be his loved ones who are left to deal with the anguish.
As for the Ragalyis, both of whom are well-known in Washington County law enforcement circles, the legal system will determine how much they pay for their share of the mistakes made that day.