US Marshal killed in Elkins
ELKINS, W.Va. -- One U.S. Marshal was killed and two were injured Wednesday as they tried to serve a warrant on a man who had failed to appear in court on nearly five-year-old drug and firearms charges.
The suspect also died in the early-morning gun battle on a quiet residential street in this small town in the state's eastern mountains.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Derek Hotsinpiller, 24, of Bridgeport, died at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown from a fatal gunshot wound, according to releases from the U.S. Marshals and West Virginia State Police.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit organization that honors fallen police officers, Hotsinpiller was wounded in the neck by a shotgun blast.
The gunman, Charles E. Smith, 50, also shot two other deputy marshals. Officials had not released the identities or conditions of those deputies. A state police press release described their injuries as "non-life threatening."
A State Police trooper and deputy marshal returned fire and killed Smith, who had opened fire, U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Dave Oney said.
The shooting occurred around 8 a.m. Wednesday at 319 Central St., where marshals and state troopers were attempting to serve the warrant.
"When they entered the residence, they were met with gunfire. The guy had a shotgun," Oney said.
Federal Magistrate Judge John Kaull said Smith was wanted on a 2006 arrest warrant.
Smith was arrested in May 2005 and, according to court documents, police found three grams of crack cocaine and eight firearms in his possession. All the weapons were handguns, ranging from a Glock .40 caliber pistol to a Ruger 9 mm pistol.
Officers charged Smith with one felony count of possession with intent to distribute and one felony count of unlawful possession of a firearm.
Kaull signed a search warrant for the Central Street residence Tuesday. He said officers had "received credible information" that Smith was living at the home. Marshals were permitted to pick him up under the old arrest warrant if they found him there, he said.
Kaull had the search warrant and the 2006 arrest warrant unsealed Wednesday.
Hotsinpiller was flown to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, Oney said. One of the two injured marshals was driven there. The third was taken to another hospital.
Police cordoned off the 300 block of Central Street Wednesday as FBI and West Virginia State Police investigated the shooting.
Central is a quiet unlined street of large single-family homes just off Elkins' Main Street. The home where the shootings took place is a white, two-story structure with black shutters and a covered front porch.
On Wednesday, the porch was littered with debris. The front door and screen door stood open. A numbered evidence marker sat on the bottom step.
Angie Goodwin, 38, lives directly across the street from the house. She said she awoke to shouting around 8 a.m. Wednesday.
"I thought it was the trash men so I looked out the window. I saw the officers on their lawn, encircling the house. Then it just kind of happened all at once, and I heard one of the officers say, 'We have a man down,' " Goodwin said. "I did not see any shooting. I just heard the shots."
She said the officers entered the house and two ambulances and a fire truck arrived shortly after. She saw medics working on one injured officer, who was lying on the front porch of the house.
She said law enforcement blocked off the street, pushing news media to the end of the street.
Marshals interviewed her a couple of times Wednesday, she said.
Goodwin, an Air Force veteran, said she has lived in Elkins all her life except when she moved to join the service. She and her husband, Doug, returned in 2003. They moved into their current home in 2005.
The Goodwins have four children aged 11, 7, 3 and 2. The oldest two catch the school bus on the corner right across from the house where the marshals were shot.
"This is a shocking thing to happen, especially right across the street where you live," she said. "I've been trying to keep my eye on it but keep my children away from the windows."
She said the Smiths seemed like "a nice family" though she didn't know Charles very well.
"He stayed in the house a lot," she said.
Goodwin said Charles Smith - also known as "Smitty" - seemed quiet and kept to himself.
"I would have never suspected it. They were so quiet and seemed like everyday folks," he said. "It's really, really sad."
She said she would regularly see Smith and his wife, Sherry, out with their grandchildren - a boy about 3 years old and a girl about 1. The couple has three children of their own, two daughters and a son.
Delores Corrick, 77, has lived on Central Street for about 40 years.
She was out walking her dog when the shootings occurred. She said she didn't see anything but heard a noise, though she also thought it was the garbage truck.
Corrick said the Smiths moved into the neighborhood about four years ago. She's never spoken to the family - she told police she couldn't identify a photo of the shooter - but never witnessed any suspicious activity, either.
"You never really saw them. They were very neat and clean," she said. "They were good neighbors."
Dennis Spada's home is about half a block from the Smith home. He said he was at the store when the shooting occurred, but his sister told him about it when he returned.
"There ain't no trouble like that that happens here," he said.
He said he never noticed any suspicious behavior.
"They kept to themselves. Never had any problems with them. They were good neighbors," Spada said.
Logan Biller, 23, said she had a different experience with the Smiths. Although she has lived on Central Street for only about six months, she said her encounters with the family weren't pleasant.
"They seemed like they were very aggressive people," she said, explaining that they would yell at people walking by on the street. She said she never talked to the family but suspected they drank a lot.
Biller told police Wednesday the house had a lot of in-and-out traffic, too.
Bob Malcolm, city councilman for Elkins' third district, said he also noticed a lot of people going in and out of the home.
"Elkins as a whole is a really good city. But stuff like this happens in other cities," he said.
Mayor Duke Talbott said he was "very surprised" to see something like this happen in his community. He said he didn't know Smith.
"The wonderful thing about living in Elkins is that it's peaceful and serene. It's a great place to raise kids," Talbott said. "It's a real tragedy. I hate to see these things happen here.
"We are doing our best to ensure the safety of the community; the safety of our residents is our most important concern. We'll do everything we can to support the authorities involved."