Search suspended for man who jumped into Potomac River after fleeing from police

Man eluded troopers after they responded to copper theft complaint near Berkeley Springs

May 15, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION and DAN DEARTH |

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. — A search has been suspended for a man who jumped into the Potomac River Monday night near Berkeley Springs after fleeing from police who were investigating a copper theft, Morgan County Sheriff Vincent Shambaugh said Tuesday.

K-9 units searched both sides of the river, and officers also looked around train cars in the area after the man disappeared Monday night, Shambaugh said.

Maryland State Police searched the Potomac River area Tuesday morning from Hancock down to the Big Pool area but did not see anything, Shambaugh said.

“It’s hard to say if he made it out of the river alive or not,” said Shambaugh, noting that river was high following recent rains.


Senior Trooper S.R. Smith and Trooper D.R. Walker of the West Virginia State Police responded to a copper theft complaint at 9:05 Monday at some railroad property at the end of Sir Johns Run Road in Berkeley Springs, according to a state police news release.

When the troopers arrived at 9:22 p.m., they began walking toward the theft site and noticed headlights approaching them from the west, the release said.

The troopers stepped to the side of the road as the vehicle approached, shined a light on the driver and identified themselves. They then ordered the driver to stop.

At that point, the driver of the vehicle accelerated toward the troopers, who fired three shots as they tried to get out of the way, the release said.

The vehicle headed eastbound and was intercepted by Deputy Dennis Jenkins of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department. The driver of the vehicle stopped and got out, the release said.

He then ran over an embankment and into the river just east of Sir Johns Run, Shambaugh said.

He said Jenkins injured his knee going down a railroad embankment after the driver.

“He (Jenkins) could her him splash and swimming away,” Shambaugh said.

Hancock Police Chief Timothy Buskirk said Tuesday morning that authorities were told by dispatchers that gun shots had been fired on the West Virginia side of the river, but they weren’t sure who fired them.

Buskirk said that he and another officer searched the area of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal about five miles west of town.

He said the search lasted for several hours.

Maryland State Police, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Paw Paw (W.Va.) Police Department and the Hampshire County (W.Va.) Sheriff’s Department assisted with the search.

Anyone with information may call West Virginia State Police at 304-258-0000.

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