Prosecutor Says Alleged Shooter 'Not Nut-Type'
HARRISVILLE - A man accused of killing a West Virginia State Police trooper may have acted irrationally before the incident, but he wasn't a "nut-type person," a prosecutor said Friday. Suspect Dennis Ferguson, 67, a World War II veteran, is being held in the Ritchie County Jail on one count of murder in connection with the shooting death of Trooper Larry G. Hacker, 33, Harrisville, in an apparent ambush Thursday night.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. April 16 before Magistrate David Haught in Harrisville. Bond has yet to be set, but the court on Friday appointed Keith White of St. Marys to represent Ferguson.
Ferguson Friday refused a request by The Parkersburg News for an interview from his jail cell. He was arraigned Friday morning before Magistrate Dorothy Hard-man.
His murder charge stems from an incident that started around 10 p.m. Thursday when neighbor Jack Langford, a White Oak farmer and guidance counselor for Ritchie County schools, called state police to report that Ferguson's truck was blocking the road to his house.
Ritchie County deputies arrived at the scene moments after Hacker was shot, at which time Verdow yelled to them to radio for back up, Sgt. B.L. Burner Jr. of the Shinnston detachment said. After additional troopers arrived, they searched the house and couldn't find Ferguson, Burner said.
Ferguson, who apparently hid in the woods or a field near the home, fired several shots at the troopers and shots were returned, Burner said. Troopers were able to locate Ferguson after he fired, then surrounded him, Burner said.
Hacker was flown by helicopter to Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital where he died about I a.m. A spokesman for the state medical examiner's office said Hacker died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen.
Ferguson for the past several days would drive up and down the road near his home in the White Oak community, speeding up and slowing down, and talking about someone who shot his cat about five years ago, said Hale Langford. Jack's father, who has called police numerous times about Ferguson blocking the road or shooting at him. Ferguson shot at people many times over the years, Langford said.
"He shot at a lot of people up there," said Langford, adding Ferguson once shot at his grandson.
But there was a 1977 incident where Ferguson assaulted Langford with a cane, but "that all died down," Langford said. Apparently, Ferguson blamed his neighbor for an oil company going over his aunt's property to drill a well, Langford said.
"I didn't have anything to do with it," Langford said.
Ferguson was charged with assaulting the elder Langford on May 25, 1977. Langford was struck around the head and face, suffering a concussion and a cut to the left side of his forehead requiring numerous stitches.
The criminal action preceded a civil suit filed by Langford against Ferguson. Langford, who at the time was represented by current Ritchie County Prosecutor David Hanlon, said he incurred medical and hospital bills of $798.34.
Langford in 1982 was awarded $3,000 in damages from Ferguson. He originally asked for actual damages of $55,798.34 and punitive damages of $50,000.
Being Langford's attorney wouldn't be grounds to get a special prosecutor to prosecute Ferguson, Hanlon said Friday.
"(Ferguson) didn't get along with people, that was common knowledge," Hanlon said, adding Ferguson isn't a mentally disturbed person.
"He isn't what you would consider a real nut-type person," Hanlon said. Ferguson wasn't well liked, but Langford said he got along with him. "We didn't talk much, but he was nice," Langford said.
Additional charges of attempted murder for shooting at troopers, deputies and emergency workers are not being considered at present, Hanlon said.