Roane deputy on the mend after shooting
SPENCER, W.Va. - About 30 people gathered outside the Roane County Courthouse to offer a prayer for Roane County Deputy John Westfall's recovery.
The quiet crowd joined hands in a circle at noon Wednesday under U.S. and West Virginia flags that hung at half-staff.
Many then surrounded the deputy's mother, Candace Westfall, to offer their best wishes.
Deputy Westfall is recovering from wounds sustained when he was shot three times by a man identified as Luke Baber of Oak Hill.
"We're so thankful that he's going to recover," Candace said about her son.
Westfall was shot when he rushed to help two West Virginia State Police troopers who already had been shot by Baber. The shooting occurred just off the Wallback exit on Intestate 79.
One trooper, Cpl. Marshall Bailey, was killed, and another, Trooper Eric Workman, was critically wounded.
Westfall, 43, who resides outside Spencer, was shot in the wrist, shoulder and lower torso, said Roane County Prosecuting Attorney Josh Downey.
Body armor kept the bullet that struck him near his stomach from penetrating, Downey said.
"It probably saved his life," he said.
His mother and other family members spent the night and early morning hours at Charleston Area Medical Center's General Hospital. The deputy was doing well as he went into surgery, she said.
"But right now he's in and out of consciousness," she said.
Candace, 67, who also resides outside Spencer, said her son takes his job very seriously and often worked 80 hours a week in his positions as Roane County deputy and a Spencer city police officer.
"He's really focused on being a policeman," she said. "He loves it."
John rarely talked about the dangers he faced as a policeman, but the thought that he could be injured in the line of duty is always there.
"You know there's always that chance that they can get hurt," she said. "People are so unpredictable."
Spencer Mayor Terry Williams was sending text messages to the deputy just minutes before he was shot on an unnamed road near the Roane/Clay County line.
"He had just arrived at the scene, and I urged him to be careful," Williams said.
Williams, who has been mayor of Spencer for 37 years, has known John and his family for most of the deputy's life, he said.
Williams' wife taught John in third grade at Spencer Elementary School.
"John Westfall is a fine young man," he said.
He said John was hired as a Spencer police officer in October 2009. The Roane County Sheriff's Department hired him shortly after that, but he opted to work out his contract with the city while starting with the county.
The mayor also talked to the deputy at work earlier Tuesday.
Williams described him as a serious man who focused on his work.
"Police officers are very unique people because they know that there's always a chance that something could happen to them," the mayor said.
John has strong ties to both the city and the surrounding communities.
He has lived in Roane County all of his life and grew up on a farm just outside the Spencer town limits, his mother said.
He has two daughters, one in high school and the other in elementary school, Roane County Magistrate Russell Goodwin said. The deputy's wife, Emily, is the Roane County assessor.
"Everyone around here knows him and his family," Goodwin said. "He's a good man."
Goodwin was shocked to hear of the shooting.
"It's a shock to everyone," he said. "We're just a small, rural county."
However, he said he well realized the stress and danger associated with a law enforcement position.
Goodwin served two terms as Roane County sheriff and served as a deputy for 11 years.
"But it really hits home when something like this happens," he said.
Although John is expected to recover from his wounds, he still has a "long haul," the prosecutor said.
"Fortunately, our deputy is out of the woods," Downey said. "But he has some serious injuries."
Downey spoke to John at CAMC General before he underwent surgery.
"He was in as good of spirits as he could be under the circumstances," Downey said. "But that's his nature.
"Everyone here is thinking of him and his family. And our thoughts and prayers go out to the troopers and their families, too."
Tributes also poured out on social media.
Derek Milam, a police officer in East Bank and Cedar Grove, wrote on Facebook, "At the academy, John Westfall was good at everything. I always jokingly referred to him as 'supercop.' Last night, I found out he really is one."