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Elswick, Paugh among law and safety honorees

February 10, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - It was a night for surprise awards and recounting miraculous comeback stories during the ninth annual Law & Safety Day in Martinsburg on Sunday.

The awards banquet - hosted by Elks Lodge 778 in Martinsburg - is held to honor police, fire and correctional facility personnel who show exceptional performance while holding down their dangerous jobs.

Sunday night, special recognitions of merit were awarded to R.J. "Bobby" Elswick and Scott E. Paugh, two West Virginia State Police officers who were seriously injured in separate incidents last year.

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Elswick, a trooper, was shot in the head while responding to a domestic call on Oct. 10 on Harper Lane near Hedgesville, W.Va.

A man - later identified as 37-year-old David Eugene Munday - ignored orders to put down a rifle and shot Elswick, police said.

Doctors at Washington County Hospital were battling swelling in Elswick's brain and at one point, a doctor suggested that discontinuation of life support for Elswick should be considered, state police Lt. Fred Wagoner said at the awards banquet.

Elswick began making improvement, and was eventually transferred to a specialized facility in Georgia where he began eating and taking steps with the assistance of a walker, Wagoner said.

"Prayers were obviously answered," Wagoner said.

Two state police dispatchers were also given awards for the way they handled the call when Elswick was shot.

A hysterical caller dialed state police to report the shooting and was handed over to telecommunicator Julie Berens, who calmed the woman down and kept her on the line for about 30 minutes while police learned more about the situation.

Telecommunicator Eric Brindle made dozens of phone calls to officials to notify them of the shooting, said chief communications officer Jill Richmond.

"The phones were ringing. It was unbelievable. It was a very long night," Brindle said.

Retired state police Lt. Jack Hockman said he was surprised at the amount of community support for the state police after Elswick was shot.

Numerous fund-raisers have been held for Elswick, raising thousands of dollars to help pay for his continued care.

Paugh, who was a sergeant, suffered injuries to his head, left arm and hip on May 25 when a vehicle went left-of-center on Golf Course Road near Martinsburg and struck his cruiser.

Two people in the Nissan Pathfinder fled the scene, leaving Paugh trapped in his car, police said.

Wagoner said Paugh's condition was "at best, described as grave."

But Paugh persevered, which doctors said could be attributed to his excellent health and his hobby as an avid runner.

Sunday night, the clean-cut Paugh joined his comrades at a table. He now is working as an investigator with the state tax department.

"I'm proof that prayer works," Paugh told the crowd upon receiving his award.

The surprise of the night occurred when longtime Martinsburg Police Department Detective George Swartwood was named Citizen of the Year by the Elks Club.

Swartwood has investigated numerous crimes over the years and has been active in organizing the annual awards banquet.

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