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Prosecutor: Yurish was hit 7 times

April 20, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - One of the West Virginia State Police troopers who shot and killed a man last week reloaded his weapon and fired twice more because Michael B. Yurish continued to move toward Yurish's estranged wife with a knife, Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said Tuesday.

Both of the officers - Senior Trooper Todd Lind and Trooper Clay Ellwanger - have been reinstated to regular duty, Games-Neely said.

Lind and Ellwanger fired their semi-automatic, .45-caliber Smith & Wesson handguns a total of 18 times, Games-Neely said.

Yurish, 51, sustained seven gunshot wounds to his torso, Games-Neely said. A state medical examiner also found an eighth item in Yurish's torso that was described as part of a bullet's jacket, but Games-Neely said it most likely is a bullet fragment.

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All 18 shell casings were found, but two bullets remain missing. Investigators searched inside and outside of the house at 92 Hedrick Ave., Martinsburg, but did not find the bullets, Games-Neely said.

The shooting happened inside the house of Joy Yurish - Michael Yurish's wife.

Police believe the bullets likely were lodged in a couch that Joy Yurish since has destroyed, Games-Neely said.

Of the other bullets, four exited the northeast corner of the house and five were found in furniture, Games-Neely said.

Yurish, who was handcuffed after the officers finished shooting, was pronounced dead at the scene, Games-Neely said.

Games-Neely said that Ellwanger's gun jammed after he fired seven times. He dumped his clip and reloaded but did not fire again, she said. Instead, he pulled Joy Yurish away from her husband, who continued to move forward aggressively, Games-Neely said.

Lind emptied his gun of its nine bullets and reloaded, then fired twice more, for a total of 11 shots, Games-Neely said.

Games-Neely said she is not sure how much time passed between the time the first bullet was fired and the time the last shot was fired.

Lind has been with the State Police for more than five years. Ellwanger joined the department more than two years ago.

As part of her review, Games-Neely read various reports and statements, including that of Joy Yurish. She said Yurish's statement and the statements given by the troopers were "fairly consistent."

Games-Neely said she is awaiting a ballistics report and the final autopsy report, which will indicate which shot or shots were fatal.

The facts surrounding the shooting will be presented to a regular grand jury panel next month. Jurors will decide whether to return an indictment against the officers.

Games-Neely has said that she believes the shooting was justified and necessary to save Joy Yurish's life.

Others in her office have spoken to the troopers, she said.

"They're doing OK. They both understand what their responsibilities were that night," Games-Neely said. "They followed protocol and procedure to the letter."

Martinsburg attorney Harley O. Wagner, a lifelong friend of two of Michael Yurish's siblings, has been acting as a spokesperson for the family.

"Although I have not spoken to the Yurish family in the last 48 hours, I am confident that you will find each of them with a certain sense of mental peace now knowing exactly what took place on that tragic April 11th morning," Wagner said Tuesday. "It is now time to allow this entire family some much-needed closure, particularly that of Joy and the children, so that each of them can now begin in private the long journey ahead to healing and peace of mind."

Michael Yurish left behind two grown daughters.

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