Use of Slain Trooper's Name 'In Poor Taste'
CHARLESTON (AP) The director of a national trooper association apologized Thursday for a telemarketer's use of the name of a slain state Trooper in requesting a donation.
Roy Hutto, executive director at the American Association of State Troopers, said the use of slain Trooper Larry Hacker's name in an ongoing fund-raising drive was "Way off base."
"It was a tragic mistake," Hutto said of a new employee's use of Hacker's name. "He didn't mean it maliciously but he shouldn't have done it."
Hacker, 34, of Harrisville died Friday after he was shot near Pullman. His funeral was Tuesday.
Hutto, a Florida State Trooper for 27 years, said he was appalled by the incident.
"I've had a lot of friends get killed in the line of duty," Hutto said. "We found the source and I assure you it won't happen again. We're sorry it ever happened, because we as an association do not condone this."
Hutto said his group has 2,345 member troopers in 25 states. He did not know what percentage of troopers nationwide belong to the organization. The group is not related to the West Virginia Troopers Association.
Lt. Col. Gary Griffith said the state police strongly objected to the use of Hacker's name.
"I don't believe anything as tragic as what occurred should be used as a springboard for fund-raising," Griffith said.
He said few West Virginia troopers belong to the national group.
A spokesman for Gov. Gaston Caperton said he received a phone call at home Tuesday night from a man who said he was from the national troopers association, which is based in Tallahassee, Fla.
The caller "indicated to me the West Virginia Troopers Lodge No. 8 had provided $10,000 in life insurance to the widow and two
children of Hacker, and he was sure that I would want to help his association provide life insurance benefits to all the other troopers who face danger daily in West Virginia," Bob Brunner said.
"I thought it was in incredibly poor taste, to be soliciting funds like this, when all West Virginians are grieving" Brunner said.
Brunner told the caller West Virginia troopers have life insurance from the state. The caller disagreed, Brunner said.
When Brunner asked the man for an identification number required by the state, the caller hung up. Another man who said he was from the group called Brunncr about 15 minutes later, Brunner said. That caller provided a 3-year-old identification number, Brunner said.
Hutto said the caller had only worked for the association's telemarketing company since April 1. He said the young man, whom he declined to identify, was trying to explain "we had benefits that help families of people who get killed."
But Hacker was not a member of the association, and his family did not receive any benefits, Hutto said.
"He won't be doing any calling anymore," Hutto said. "I just don't know how to say I'm sorry more than I'm saying it."
Jim Carbone, a consumer affairs attorney in the state attorney general's office, said he is investigating the association for possible misrepresentation. He said the Secretary of State's office received several calls asking about the group.
Only one-tenth of one percent of the money raised by the association goes to life insurance for its members, while 82 percent goes for fund-raising expenses, according to an association statement, Carbone said.