Daily reports of gun violence in other parts of the country seem so far away for most in the Mid-Ohio Valley. When it hits here at home, the surprise felt by residents such as Parkersburg's Nacodie Barrows is only one of many emotions experienced.
Barrows lives in the neighborhood where, according to witness reports and early stages of an investigation, Christopher Paul Johnson, also of Parkersburg, pointed a gun at police officers and advanced, ignoring orders to stop. Based on their knowledge of Johnson's criminal history, and information they had received that he was not willing to be taken back to prison, officers fired their own weapons in self defense.
In the area of Plum Street, between 20th Street and Washington Avenue, residents are accustomed to a quiet existence.
"I've never actually heard gunshots going off before," Barrows said. In fact, with the exception of area hunters, the same may be true for many.
But for Parkersburg police, the reality of the degree to which a criminal element and its accompanying violence has settled into our region has been apparent for some time. This incident was the second time this year officers have been forced to shoot a suspect who appeared to be bent on deadly harm.
"It's unfortunate that it ended this way, but they did what they had to do (regarding this week's incident)," said Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin. "And I support them 100 percent."
Work days are getting tougher for our law enforcement officers. They need our help and support. Police had been searching from Johnson since April, when a large amount of marijuana, some cocaine and cash were recovered during a search of his residence. It is worth considering how different circumstances might have been had other residents cooperated with police in their earlier attempts to track him down.
While it is still true that the majority of police officers will go their entire careers without ever having to discharge their weapons in the line of duty, there are now three Parkersburg officers dealing with the knowledge that they were forced to do just that.
Barring any unexpected twists in the investigation, it appears as though none of these men had any choice. Parkersburg residents and the Mid-Ohio Valley community at large must do everything possible to ensure they and their fellow officers are not fighting this war alone.