Saturday, April 10, 1993
'I thought it would be so simple,'
Neighbor of Murder Suspect Says
PULLMAN - When Jack Langford called police Thursday evening, he never dreamed it would result In Trooper Larry G. Hacker lying bleeding in the dirt and gravel of Dennis Ferguson's driveway.
"I thought it would be so simple," Langford said Friday. "They'd come, talk to Mr. Ferguson and that would be that."
Ferguson, 67, was charged early Friday with the murder of Hacker, 34, of Harrisville, the father of two.
Seven state policemen gathered behind yellow caution tape Friday at Ferguson's small Whiteoak home trying to piece together what happened there the night before.
Orange paint marked where Hacker had fallen. Empty white packets of gauze showed the trail of paramedics.
According to Langford, Hacker responded to his call a little before 10 p.m. Ferguson had allegedly blocked Langford from getting to his home along narrow Upper White Oak Road. "We've had problems with Mr. Ferguson for years, but this time he wouldn't let me get to my home. ... He was yelling at me about one of his cats coming up missing four or five years ago," said Langford, 48, a guidance counselor at nearby Ritchie County High School.
Hacker and trainee Trooper S.J. Verdow drove to the driveway of Ferguson's home followed by a Ritchie County deputy sheriff. Langford came up a short time later on his farm tractor.
"I heard a single shot and a man yell, 'We've got an officer down,'" Langford recalled. "He yelled, 'He's not responding.' I ducked down behind the tractor wheel and the other police cars started coming."
Ferguson was waiting for the troopers along the wooded slope above his home. Hacker, with gun drawn, was walking to the house, said Capt. G.L. Edgell of the Shinnston detachment. He did not know Ferguson was in the woods.
Hacker never made it past Ferguson's ramshackle garage. The bullet struck Hacker in the lower extremities, Edgell said.
Ferguson did not fend off officers and paramedics who tried to reach Hacker as was initially reported, said Lt. W.C. McBee.
"We wished we could have done it sooner, but it was dark, and certain precautionary measures have to be taken before rushing Into a scene," McBee said. "It appears to be about 40 minutes between the time he was shot until the ambulance took him out."
Edgell said Ferguson was wounded by police gunfire. He said Ferguson received one or two flesh wounds and then surrendered to police.
A Health-Net helicopter tram-ported Hacker from Pullman Elementary School to Camden-Clark Hospital in Parkersburg, where he died a short time later.
Ferguson was treated and released from St. Joseph's Hospital in Parkersburg.
Edgell said Ferguson was arraigned Friday afternoon and formally charged with first-degree murder. Bond had not been set late Friday.
At the entrance to Upper White Oak Road, Tina Richards flew an American flag at half-staff Friday in front of her home.
"[Hacker] was really well-liked around here. This all took this community by surprise," Richards said. "We knew him through 4-H and Through church. He and his wife were always out In support of the kids. Most times when you'd go to a ball game or something, they'd be there.
Richards' father-in-law, Bernard Richards, said he knew Ferguson and wasn't surprised at all by his alleged act.
"He had his own way of looking at things," he said. "And he was always feuding with the Langfords. He took the cane off old Hale Langford and hit him in the head with it a while back. He wanted that whole tract up there all to himself."
Jack Langford said he was born and raised on the land he and his father, Hale, own. Ferguson moved in about 20 years ago.
Gov. Gaston Caperton ordered all state buildings to fly their flap at half-staff Friday in honor of Hacker.
Hacker, a three-year state police veteran, is the first trooper to be killed in the line of duty since J.T. Brammer was shot to death while serving a warrant near Kingwood in April 1989.