Santa Stops: State Police hand out holiday cash to motorists

By GREG JORDAN, Bluefield Daily Telegraph undefined

PRINCETON, W.Va. (AP) — Flashing blue lights in a rear view mirror isn’t always a welcome sight, but the experience became a pleasant surprise Tuesday when a West Virginia state trooper gave the drivers he had pulled over a $100 bill just in time for Christmas.

Since 2014, an anonymous donor has been giving $1,000 that troopers with the West Virginia State Police Princeton detachment can present to motorists they stop. There are many times when people see troopers only when bad things happen, but playing Santa for a day gives local troopers an opportunity to see good reactions, Sgt. A.P. Christian said.

“We do try to do these things, especially with the young (troopers), so they can experience something other than bad, bad, bad,” Christian said.

Trooper J.S. VanMeter headed out on patrol Tuesday morning with his usual equipment and three crisp $100 bills ready. He was looking for infractions such as defective equipment or minor traffic violations that would give him a reason to stop people who could use some extra Christmas cash. It wasn’t the first time he has done Santa Stops.

“This is my third year doing this,” he said after thinking for a moment. “Yes, this will be my third year.”

VanMeter proceeded through Princeton as he listened to the usual calls over his radio and watched surrounding drivers. He soon spotted a blue pickup truck heading up Courthouse Road and initiated a traffic stop. The State Police cruiser and the pickup pulled over near the intersection of Route 460.

Jerry Heaton of Lashmeet thought VanMeter was pulling him over because the loaded trash bags in his truck were not secured, but it was only for a minor traffic violation. VanMeter went back to his cruiser, wrote a warning and walked back to the truck where he returned Heaton’s license, gave him the warning and a $100 bill.

“I thought it was because those (trash bags) were uncovered,” Heaton said as he smiled and held the surprise cash. “That’s what I thought.”

And the money was very welcome.

“It feels fabulous,” Heaton added. “I think any time anybody gives you $100, it’s fantastic.”

The money was a welcomed and helpful surprise just before Christmas.

“I guarantee you it will,” he said.

VanMeter resumed his patrol and later pulled over a car along Maple Acres Road. Amanda Jenkins of Lashmeet smiled as he approached and then explained why she was pulled over. He wrote a warning and brought back her license along with a $100 bill.

She was smiled even more when VanMeter gave her the money. How did she feel?

“Blessed,” she replied, adding the money would help with Christmas.

With one more $100 bill to bestow, VanMeter drove down Route 19 and initiated a traffic stop on a white Ford. Glenn Hagerman of Rock said he wasn’t sure why the trooper had pulled him over. He was sure what the surprise $100 meant to him.

“It’s a blessing,” Hagerman said. When asked what he could do with the money, he replied, “Something different for Christmas.”

“Bless you, sir,” he added when VanMeter turned to say goodbye.