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Police rely on training when shots fired

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - State Police say critical incidents like those Tuesday in Logan and Randolph counties are part of the job but that they rely on training to get them through.

A reportedly suicidal man opened fire on troopers Tuesday morning when they responded to his White's Addition Road in Logan.

John Watkins, 24, fired one shot at officers with a .22 caliber pistol. He missed and officers were able to take him into custody. He was charged with wanton endangerment.

It was a different story in Elkins Tuesday evening.

Troopers there shot and killed Jeffrey Zirkle, 52, at his home near Jimtown after a standoff.

Zirkle, who was believed to have been intoxicated, shot his ex-wife, Elizabeth Smith, 49, multiple times before holing up in his home, said Sgt. Michael Baylous, State Police spokesman.

That incident remains under investigation. Baylous said troopers still are not sure what prompted the incident.

Officers were contacted just before 2 p.m. Tuesday. Smith, who was critically wounded, drove herself to her mother's home near Coalton Elementary School to call for help. She remained in critical condition Wednesday at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown.

Troopers went to Zirkle's home where they tried to talk him into coming out. Family members also tried to get Zirkle to surrender to law enforcement, Baylous said.

"They discussed it with him numerous times, telling him to come out of the home without a weapon," Baylous said.

Zirkle came out of the house about 5:45 p.m. armed with a rifle, the sergeant said. One trooper fired at Zirkle. That trooper, whose name was not released, is on paid administrative leave while the shooting is investigated, Baylous said.

He didn't know how many shots were fired.

Baylous said troopers were reacting to several factors, namely the threat to the public.

"It wasn't that long ago they were dealing with (Cpl. Andrew) Loudin being shot," Baylous said. "It brings up the same emotions."

Loudin was shot in May while investigating allegations of child sexual abuse at a home in Elkins. William Dumire, 55, shot the trooper, carjacked a woman and forced her to drive him to Kelly Mountain Lodge. He died in a shootout with troopers when they caught up to him in a culvert.

Loudin, who works in the Crimes Against Children Unit, has since recovered and was back on the job in August.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Derek Hotsinpiller was shot and killed while trying to serve a warrant in Elkins in February 2011.

Hotsinpiller, 24, followed another marshal into the home of Charles Smith, who had been wanted since 2006 after being indicted on federal drug and gun charges, when Smith did not answer the door.

Smith opened fire with a 12-gauge shotgun from behind a door, mortally wounding Hotsinpiller in the neck. Smith fired multiple shots, wounding Supervisory Deputy Marshal Alex Neville and Deputy Marshal Fred Frederick. Both men have since recovered. State Police Sgt. Gregory Stalnaker also was at the scene and shot and killed Smith.

"Anytime there's an incident like this, there are no winners," Baylous said. "Our sympathies go out to the families and to the first responders on scene.

"It's difficult. It's not something you go into work and hope to be involved in, but you accept that it could happen. All you can do is rely on your training and experience and revert back to it. You hope and pray for a good outcome."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at or 304-348-4850.



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