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Banquet honors police, rescuers

October 18, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Police had trouble infiltrating a drug operation in the area when they turned to Mark Johnston for help.

Johnston, a local officer known for his sense of humor, decided to give it a try.

The challenge as part of the drug probe was to get inside a house that investigators had their eye on, said Jefferson County Sheriff Everett "Ed" Boober, who honored Johnston during a sixth annual banquet at Charles Town Races & Slots Tuesday night to honor outstanding police and rescue workers.

Johnston decided to pose as a home siding contractor to do his work, Boober said.

In most cases, siding contractors give estimates on how much it will cost to put new siding on a house by measuring the exterior of the house, Boober said.

Johnston convinced a woman at the house that he had to measure the inside of each room of the house to give her an estimate, Boober said.

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Johnston got in and provided authorities with a complete layout of the house, Boober said.

It was one of many stories Boober told to a crowd of about 250 people at the banquet.

"You left a mark," Boober told Johnston.

Johnston is a well-known, popular former officer who is now waging a battle against a brain tumor. His health problems started last year when he thought he might have been suffering from a sinus infection.

After having medical tests, the tumor was detected.

Johnston said he was initially told he had six months to live then it was lengthened to two years.

Johnston stepped to the podium during Tuesday's banquet to describe his battle with the tumor and how his wife, Carla, motivated him to get out of bed and "get on with my life."

Johnston said the tumor has decreased some in size and he is putting forth a positive attitude.

"I'm hoping for the best, praying to God. Thank you," Johnston told the crowd after praises were heaped upon him.

Boober read stories from other police officers who recounted some of their more memorable experiences with the 42-year-old Johnston, who rose to the rank of captain in the Charles Town Police Department and retired several months ago.

Boober recalled how Johnston became interested in police work and began riding along with other officers to get a feel for the profession.

One night while riding with another officer, police became involved in a foot pursuit with a man, Boober said. And to the surprise of the suspect, Johnston just happened to be standing in the right spot when he reached out, grabbed the man and "wrapped him up," said Boober.

Johnston is known for his extreme strength and strapping physique.

He thrives on humor.

Boober said whenever a new police officer came to town, Johnston always wanted officers to bring the new hire over.

As a joke, Johnston would put on real thick eyeglasses, generating quizzical looks from the new officers, Boober said.

Then there was the time when Johnston and another officer would do their own dance routine to a rap song as part of an anti-drug message for kids, Boober said.

"Words do not say enough folks. You have to see the film," Boober said.

Other police officers honored included Doug Nichols, Jesse Jones, Bobby Shirley, Jim Carbone and Sid Sponaugle, all of whom retired recently following lengthy careers in law enforcement.

In the career emergency medical service providers category, Edward M. Hannon of the Jefferson County Ambulance Authority was honored.

In the volunteer emergency medical services provider category, those honored were Donald L. Dunn Jr. of the Friendship Fire Co., Tara L. Hough of the Independent Fire Co. and Douglas M. Pittinger of the Shepherdstown Fire Department.

In the fire service provider category, those honored were Michael Pond of the Bakerton Fire Department, Douglas W. Snowden of the Citizens Fire Co., Stephen D. Hough of the Friendship Fire Co., and Stephen J. Gorman of the Shepherdstown Fire Department.

In the law enforcement category, those honored were Jonathan B. Quinnam of the Charles Town Police Department, Brian J. Dolan of the Harpers Ferry Police Department, Perry M. Ballenger of the Ranson Police Department, Tracy L. Edwards of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department and Benjamin M. Wilfong of the West Virginia State Police.

Kimberly D. Burke was honored in the emergency communications category.

The banquet was sponsored by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce.

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