Trooper's Funeral To Be at Ritchie High

By David Wilkison
Associated Press Writer



HARRISVILLE, W.Va. - A funeral has been scheduled Monday at Ritchie County High School for a West Virginia state trooper shot to death while responding to a dispute between two neighbors.

Flags flew at half-staff across the state Friday in memory of Trooper Larry G. Hacker, 34, of Harrisville. Hacker died shortly after midnight Thursday, two hours after he was shot in a hollow near Pullman.

Dennis Ferguson, 67, of Pullman was charged with first-degree murder and remained in the county jail today without bond.

"We lost a good trooper," Sheriff Mike Burwell said Friday. "He was probably one of the nicest troopers you'd ever want to meet. Everyone liked him."

Hundreds of police officers, friends and family are expected to fill the high school gymnasium Monday afternoon for Hacker's funeral. Burial has been scheduled later that day in Cedarville.

"He was a family man. He was so involved with the community," said Beth Beachler, the Harrisville detachment's secretary. "He took a lot of interest in the activities at the high school. He was just very dedicated."

Police said Hacker was responding to a complaint that Ferguson refused to move a pickup truck blocking a one-lane county route adjacent to Ferguson's home about 10 miles east of Harrisville.

Burwell said Ferguson was waiting on a knoll above his home when state police walked up his steep driveway to approach the house.

"I guess he just had a problem with his neighbors," Burwell said. "I think he just lost it. He wanted to be the sole owner of that tract."

Ferguson was arrested in woods near his home about midnight Thursday, two hours after the shooting began, authorities said.

State Medical Examiner Dr. Irvin Sopher said Hacker died of internal injures from a single gunshot wound to the abdomen.

"It's a shame it had to come to that," said Jack Langford, 48. of Pullman. "Had he moved his truck, I would have come on home and that would have been the end of it."

Langford, who lives about a mile beyond Ferguson's home, was returning from feeding cattle at his parents' home when he encountered Ferguson. Ferguson was unarmed, he said.

"He was irrational, accusing someone four or five years ago of killing one of his cats," said Langford, a guidance counselor at Ritchie County High School. "I asked him to move his truck and he said he'd move it when he was good and ready."

Langford said he turned his tractor around and headed the half-mile back to his parents' home and called state police. He followed authorities back up the road about an hour later and heard a gunshot as he approached Ferguson's driveway.

"I heard someone yell, 'We've got an officer down,"' Langford said. "I got off the tractor and got behind a wheel because I had no idea where the shooting was coming from."
Trooper S.J.. Verdow, a January graduate of the West Virginia State Police Academy, was being trained by Hacker and accompanied him on the call.

"We walked to his house. It looked empty," Verdow told the Charleston Daily Mail in Friday's editions. "I heard a shot and saw that Trooper Hacker was down, but I couldn't see where the shot was fired from.

"It was impossible to see where he was," Verdow said.

Gov. Gaston Caperton ordered all state buildings to fly their flags at half-staff Friday. A moment of silence was observed in the House of Delegates.

The last trooper killed on duty was James T. Brammer, who was slain in April 1989 in Preston County while serving a warrant.