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Trooper comes home

Shot in the head while answering a domestic disturbance call, West Virginia State Trooper R.J.

Shot in the head while answering a domestic disturbance call, West Virginia State Trooper R.J.

February 17, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Walking slowly down the steps of the governor's plane, West Virginia State Trooper R.J. "Bobby" Elswick was welcomed home Friday afternoon by a large crowd that included many state troopers, sheriff's deputies and rescue workers.

Elswick, who was once not expected to live, was all smiles as he greeted members of his family and fellow officers.

Elswick was shot once in the head in October while responding to a report of domestic violence. He underwent rehabilitation in Georgia before returning to Martinsburg.

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"Everybody's real happy to have him home," said Sgt. Deke Walker of the state police, who was asked to give a statement on behalf of Elswick's family.

Gov. Bob Wise's plane touched down at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport around noon Friday.

About 30 minutes later, Elswick stepped out, greeted by applause.

A few minutes later, he left in a police cruiser driven by a friend and co-worker, Sgt. E.D. Burnett.

Sgt. Scott Richmond of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department was at City Hospital on the night of Oct. 10 after Elswick was shot. He stood guard over the man accused of shooting Elswick and, like many, worried that Elswick would not make it.

"To be able to see him come off the plane like that was a very good healing process, not only for me but probably for a lot of the guys," Richmond said.

Richmond, who spoke briefly to Elswick at the airport, said he told the trooper he was glad to see him back. He also asked whether Elswick received a video prepared primarily by Richmond's wife, a state police dispatcher, that included greetings to Elswick from his co-workers here.

Trooper John Droppleman, who returned fire and injured the man accused of shooting Elswick, was also among the crowd gathered around the governor's plane.

"It's just a lift to see him walk off the plane, see him smile," said Droppleman. "We love him and we're glad to have him back."

Droppleman followed the entourage of police cruisers to Elswick's house where friends have been building a deck.

"The first thing he said was the deck was huge," Droppleman said. It will get used, Droppleman said, because Elswick "loves his grilled steaks."

Although he cannot see well, Elswick recognizes people once they get close, Droppleman said. He's cognizant and can answer questions and hold a conversation.

"It's nothing short of a miracle that he's even here with us," Droppleman said.

Droppleman said thanks should be given to emergency personnel who conducted multiple fund-raisers, and to a community unwavering in its support of Elswick.

A native of McDowell County, Elswick, 31, enlisted in the West Virginia State Police in September 1995. He and his wife, Terri, do not have children.

Elswick will continue his rehabilitation in Hagerstown, Burnett has said.

David Eugene Munday, 37, of Hedgesville, is being held in Eastern Regional Jail without bail on charges of nighttime burglary and kidnapping in connection with the call to which Elswick and other officers were responding.

Munday has not been charged in connection with the shooting, which happened outside a home on Harper Lane off Butts Mill Road west of Hedgesville.

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