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W.Va. police officer shoots man

February 24, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Martinsburg man remained hospitalized in critical condition Thursday night, a day after he was shot by a Martinsburg City Police officer investigating a break-in.

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William Lee "Billy" Johnson, 30, of 708 W. King St., had undergone surgery, Martinsburg Police Chief Ted Anderson said.

Johnson was in the intensive care unit, but the hospital would not release information about his injuries.

"He's going to make it," said Sgt. George Bradshaw, commander of the West Virginia State Police barracks in Martinsburg. "He'll recover fully."

The shooting came late Wednesday after police received a report of a break-in in progress at the Martinsburg Housing Authority's office at Ambrose Towers, a senior citizen high-rise off Winchester Avenue, police said.

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When Officers John Sherman and Steve Urbanski arrived, the intruder threatened them with a 3-foot metal bar, police alleged.

Sherman shot Johnson once in the chest with his 9 mm service handgun after the officers' demands he surrender were disregarded, police said.

Johnson, who had appeared in court earlier Wednesday on a prior breaking-and-entering charge, had not been charged in the Wednesday break-in as of late Thursday.

Police were standing guard at Johnson's hospital room, Anderson said.

Sherman has been placed on administrative duty, which is standard procedure when an officer is involved in a shooting, Anderson said.

Anderson has asked state police to handle the investigation into whether assault and weapons charges should be filed against Johnson. The Berkeley County Sheriff's Department was assisting in the investigation.

Anderson said the intruder was trying to steal rolls of quarters and packs of cigarettes from the Housing Authority office.

Gladys M. Burcker, the executive director of the Housing Authority, said a frame containing a $5 bill won in a Super Bowl bet was removed from a wall and smashed open.

Earlier Wednesday, Johnson appeared before Berkeley County Magistrate Harold Darlington to face a breaking-and-entering charge stemming from Jan. 2.

According to court records, that charge related to a break-in at the Handy Shopper convenience store on U.S. 11 North.

The store's door was broken open with a rock, and beer and cigarettes were stolen, according to court records.

In that case, Robinson was charged with breaking and entering and petty larceny. He had been free on $5,587 bond, court records show.

Burcker said Wednesday's break-in was the first violent crime she was aware of in her 47 years with the Housing Authority, which opened an office at Ambrose Towers in 1974.

Elderly and handicapped tenants occupy all 104 units at the complex, Burcker said.

She and her husband, R.B. Burcker, the maintenance supervisor, share an office where the shooting occurred.

Thursday afternoon, R.B. Burcker pointed to a filing cabinet several feet away from his wife's desk. Burcker said a concave mark on the filing cabinet was where a bullet hit it.

In the lobby, they pointed at a double-pane window, no more than 18 inches wide, through which they believed the intruder entered.

The Burckers have worked together for 20 years and have been married for 15. They said they don't discuss work at home, but in this case, they were shaken up and would make an exception.

"I don't think I'll ever forget this," Gladys Burcker said.

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