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'Top of the line' trooper

October 14, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

By all accounts, Robert Elswick epitomizes every meaning of the word trooper.

A West Virginia State Police trooper, Elswick is considered by many to be one of the best. He's good-natured, dependable and just as courteous with suspects as with friends, his colleagues said.

Elswick was shot once in the head Thursday night while responding to a domestic battery incident in Hedgesville, W.Va. He remained in critical condition in Washington County Hospital at press time.

The man who allegedly shot Elswick, 37-year-old David Eugene Munday of Hedgesville, was taken into custody after the shooting. He is being held without bond in Eastern Regional Jail.

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Elswick, 31, began working as a trooper in September 1995. Originally from McDowell County, he worked in the Martinsburg barrack until July 2000 when he left to work as a trooper on the West Virginia Turnpike - closer to his original home. Elswick and his wife returned to the Eastern Panhandle in July 2001, said Trooper Jay Powers, speaking from the state police Office of Public Affairs in Charleston.

Berkeley County Magistrate Carlton DeHaven worked with Elswick when the trooper had a court case or brought a suspect in to be arraigned.

"He's got a real good attitude. And I appreciate that. It makes my job easier and everybody else's," said DeHaven, a former police officer. "He'd come in here with a smile on his face and leave the same way."

Elswick is always courteous and professional, the type of officer who treated everyone the same, no matter who they were, DeHaven said.

"He's top of the line," said DeHaven's assistant, Sue McGown, whose husband is a corporal with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

"I've never really seen him in a bad mood," said DeHaven, who cracked a smile just once when discussing the trooper.

"He raids my candy jar every now and then," DeHaven said with a small grin.

George Bradshaw, who retired from the state police earlier this year as a sergeant, worked with Elswick for years.

"He's real jovial. Jokes all the time. Soft-spoken," said Bradshaw, now working as a county bailiff. "He's been just a good trooper."

Sgt. C.C. Morton said Elswick is well-liked.

"He's a very good worker, very dependable, very trustworthy," Morton said.

Because he does not know Elswick too much outside of the scope of the green police uniform, Morton sought help from others on Elswick's hobbies and interests. They listed hunting, skiing, spending time with his wife of six years and watching NASCAR races as Elswick's off-duty pursuits.

Elswick and his wife do not have children.

Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely has worked with Elswick on several cases, including the death of a woman who was stabbed at the Hedgesville Post Office in June. Elswick was one of the main investigators in that case, Games-Neely said.

"He's generally very quiet. Does his job. Wants to learn a lot of different things," she said.

Word on how Elswick was doing Friday depended on whom you asked and when. Even fellow troopers said they seemed to be getting conflicting information.

Dr. Marc Kross, surgeon-in-chief of the Washington County Hospital Trauma Center, said a surgeon and neurosurgeon rushed Elswick into surgery when he got to the hospital Thursday night.

"He's not out of the woods yet," said Kross, who was treating Elswick in the intensive care unit Friday.

West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise went to Washington County Hospital on Friday afternoon to see Elswick and his family.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with them as Trooper Elswick, who was shot in the line of duty, fights for his life. I am asking all West Virginians to unite in their thoughts and prayers for this young man," Wise said in a prepared statement.

The shooting happened outside a home on Harper Lane, west of Hedgesville in a rural part of the county.

Many of the officers not involved in the investigation spent part or all of their night at the hospital.

Berkeley County Sheriff Randy Smith first went to City Hospital where Munday was taken. Munday, who was injured when Trooper John Droppleman returned fire after Elswick was hit, was released from the hospital a couple of hours after he arrived.

After Munday was released, Smith drove north to see Elswick. Although the two work for different police departments, Smith said he knows Elswick as a member of the bigger police family.

"I guess you would call him a model police officer," Smith said. "Just an all-around good guy."

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