Fund-raiser held for injured trooper

October 28, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

Not everyone collecting money for critically injured West Virginia State Trooper Robert Elswick on Saturday knew him personally, but that hardly mattered.

"We're all like a big family ...," said Travis Shroades, a lieutenant with Baker Heights Volunteer Fire Co., who was stationed on Winchester Avenue at W.Va. 45 in Martinsburg, W.Va. "When something like this happens, it's devastating. It's just a bunch of sisters and brothers."

Firefighters and ambulance squad workers - those who know what it's like to answer emergency calls - took to Berkeley County's busiest roads for about six hours Saturday. Many motorists stopped just long enough to drop coins or folding money in firefighters' boots that served as collection pots.


The wads of ones, fives, 10s and 20s added up quickly. Gary Hershman, Baker Heights' president, reported that $17,451.77 was collected.

"We were truly amazed," Hershman said. "We thought maybe 10 thousand."

Solicitors wearing green ribbons - symbolizing West Virginia trooper green - held signs with Elswick's picture and a brief description how he was hurt.

"Thirty-one-year-old Trooper First Class R.J. Elswick, an eight-year veteran of the WV State Police, was critically injured October 10th from a gunshot wound to the head, while responding to a domestic dispute near Hedgesville, WV," the large signs said. "A special fund has been set up to assist Trooper R.J. Elswick's family and wife, Terri."

David Eugene Munday, 37, of Hedgesville, W.Va., was charged with burglary and kidnapping in connection with the events leading up to the shooting. He remains in Eastern Regional Jail on those charges.

Elswick remained in critical condition Saturday night at Washington County Hospital.

Trooper Tom Kearns, who works with Elswick at the Martinsburg barrack, said his family is looking at rehabilitation centers for him. The closest ones are near Washington and Baltimore.

Firetrucks were parked at key intersections with lights flashing Saturday, giving motorists a chance to slow down and take notice.

Collection posts were set up near Interstate 81 exit 12 in Martinsburg, Warms Springs Avenue and U.S. 11 just outside Martinsburg, Interstate 81 exit 5 in Inwood and the Hedgesville Volunteer Fire Co. station.

Baker Heights firefighter Stephanie Largent, who was on W.Va. 45, said some drivers contributed three or four times.

Some people didn't want to put money in the boots because they already pay a county fire tax. They changed their minds when they found out the collection was for Elswick, Largent said.

"A lot will come past and say, 'I'll get you on the way back,' " said Tommy Newcomb, deputy chief of the Bedington Volunteer Fire Department, who stood on U.S. 11.

Newcomb said one woman wrote a check for $100.

Stephanie Largent's mother, Mary Lou Largent, the rescue chief for Baker Heights, said at least three other contributors gave $100.

One was Masters Hardware in Inwood, courtesy of owners Ron and Terry Taylor.

"It was the right thing to do," Ron Taylor said.

Terry Taylor said the couple does not know Elswick, but they used to rent property to another state trooper for a few years.

Kearns said the fund contained about $20,000 a week ago, so Saturday's boot drive nearly doubled the amount.

The Martinsburg barrack has been overwhelmed by the sympathy and donations from the public, Kearns said.

  • Checks made payable to The Robert Elswick Fund can be dropped off at:

  • The Inwood Eatery in Inwood, W.Va.

  • The Warm Springs Eatery in Martinsburg, W.Va.

  • Gold's Gyms in Hagers-town, Martinsburg and Charles Town, W.Va.

  • Centra Bank on U.S. 11 north or on Foxcroft Avenue in Martinsburg.

    Checks also can be mailed to the West Virginia State Police barrack at 14 Trooper Drive, Martinsburg, WV 25401.

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