Gun Suddenly Fires, Kills Va. Trooper

By Clarence Williams and Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Virginia State Police trooper was fatally shot yesterday when a firearm discharged inside a pickup truck that had crashed on a Clarke County highway, state police officials said.

The trooper, who was not identified, was one of two people who were investigating the crash, which occurred about noon on Route 649, about 60 miles west of Washington.

Police officials said that while the damaged truck, a Ford Ranger, was being moved, a weapon discharged and the trooper was hit in the chest. He was flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he died at 2:45 p.m.

State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said that the trooper was wearing his bulletproof vest but that the bullet hit him in an unprotected area near his arm.

Authorities provided no information about what might have caused the weapon to discharge. It appeared that nobody was holding the gun at the time. The second trooper was not injured.

State police said late last night that the circumstances of the shooting are under investigation.

"Obviously, it's a tremendous loss," Geller said.

Police said the crash occurred about four miles from Route 17 and Route 50. Two people were in the pickup truck, and both were taken into custody on alcohol-related charges. Neither was identified. They were not seriously injured, Geller said.

Fire and rescue personnel from Mount Weather, a federal installation in the area, were apparently at the scene at the time of the shooting and went to the trooper's aid, authorities said.

The death was believed to be the first of a trooper in the line of duty in the Northern Virginia area in at least one year.

Details of the trooper's service were not immediately available last night.


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