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Troopers keep vigil for Elswick

October 14, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Described as being in "touch-and-go" condition, a West Virginia State Police trooper who was shot in the head Thursday night clung to life Sunday at Washington County Hospital while fellow troopers kept a vigil there.

Between 12 and 20 troopers at a time are staying at the hospital to be with Trooper Robert Elswick. They are staying at the hospital around the clock, and at the minimum, a West Virginia trooper and a Maryland State Police trooper are at the hospital to show support for Elswick, said Trooper Tom Kearns, a close friend and neighbor of Elswick.

"We're all just kind of sitting around praying and telling stories about Bobby. The mood overall here is good. Everyone is still in high spirits," Kearns said.

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Elswick, 31, remained in critical condition Sunday night at the hospital.

A seven-year state police veteran, Elswick was shot Thursday night during a domestic dispute on Harper Lane near Hedgesville, W.Va.

David Eugene Munday, 37, allegedly shot Elswick after Elswick and Trooper John Droppleman responded to a call about a possible domestic situation, police said. When Munday saw police arriving, he left a nearby home carrying a .22 magnum bolt action rifle, court records said. Munday ignored orders to put down the gun and shot Elswick, police allege.

Droppleman returned fire and wounded Munday. Munday was taken to City Hospital for treatment and is now being held in the Eastern Regional Jail near Martinsburg without bail.

The priority in the treatment of Elswick is reducing swelling that has developed around the officer's brain, Kearns said Sunday.

Doctors have not been able to control the swelling despite a combination of surgery and medicine, Kearns said.

Elswick has not been conscious during his treatment at the hospital, Kearns said.

"There's been no real improvement. The next 72 hours are the most critical," Kearns said.

Dr. Marc Kross, surgeon-in-chief at Washington County Hospital, declined to comment on Elswick's condition Sunday.

Elswick is the second state police officer in the Eastern Panhandle to be seriously hurt this year.

On May 29, Aaron Curtis Lewis, 18, of Martinsburg, was charged with striking a police cruiser driven by state police Sgt. Scott E. Paugh.

Lewis and the passenger in his car fled the scene after the wreck, leaving Paugh trapped in his cruiser, according to court records and police.

No one saw the crash and it was about 10 minutes before it was reported, police said. Paugh was flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia with injuries to his head, left arm and hip, police said.

Lewis was charged with fleeing from an officer causing injury, police said.

Despite initial fears that Paugh would possibly not survive, he has made a remarkable recovery, Kearns said.

Although Paugh has not returned to work, he is seen occasionally in public and looks good for what he has been through, Kearns said.

"We're just hoping we can have a great success story with Bobby like we did with Eddie Paugh," Kearns said.

Several area businesses have decided to send food to the troopers staying with Elswick at Washington County Hospital. On Sunday, King's New York Style Pizza in Martinsburg sent pizza to the hospital for the troopers, Kearns said.

Kearns also announced that a fund has been set up to help pay for Elswick's medical expenses and to help offset lost wages to the trooper and his wife, Terri. People who want to make a donation can write a check to "R.J. Elswick Fund," Kearns said.

The checks can be brought to the state police barrack on Edwin Miller Boulevard in Martinsburg or mailed to the barrack at 14 Trooper Drive, Martinsburg, WV 25401, Kearns said. Donations can also be made to the fund at Centra Bank, Kearns said.

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