Deputy U.S. marshal Derek Hotsinpiller, shot in the line of duty

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 17, 2011; 11:47 PM

Derek Hotsinpiller didn't just know he wanted a career in law enforcement. He knew he wanted to work for the U.S. Marshals Service. And at 24, he was serving search warrants in his home state of West Virginia, an unusually young deputy in a profession that has many older agents.

Hotsinpiller was killed Wednesday in Elkins, W.Va., when a drug suspect opened fire on him and two other deputy marshals with a shotgun before they shot him dead, authorities said. The marshals were serving a warrant on Charles E. Smith, 50, who was wanted on charges related to possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Hotsinpiller was shot in the neck and pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The injured deputies are Alex Neville, a supervisory agent who is recovering after surgery at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, and deputy marshal Fred Frederick, who was released after treatment. The federal agents had backup from West Virginia troopers and other state officers when they entered Smith's home.

Hotsinpiller was the second federal law enforcement employee to lose his life this week in the line of duty. In Mexico, two federal agents were shot Tuesday by unknown assailants in San Luis Potosi state, four hours north of Mexico City.

Jaime Zapata, 32, an agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was killed in the shooting. Another ICE agent, identified by the Houston Chronicle as Victor Avila, was wounded. He was transferred to a Houston hospital, where he was listed in stable condition.

According to officials, the men had been meeting with their counterparts in San Luis Potosi, where Mexico's federal police academy is located and where U.S. trainers teach.

Hotsinpiller, the West Virginia deputy marshal, came from a law enforcement family. His late father was a lieutenant and his brother a detective for the police force in Bridgeport, W.Va.

Hotsinpiller went to work in the Marshals Service's Clarksburg office after graduating from the U.S. Marshals Academy a year ago. At Fairmont State University, where he graduated in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, he had played on the basketball team as a freshman. But he quit to focus on his studies, said Jeffrey Carter, a spokesman for the Marshals Service.

According to the Associated Press, Jim Smith, Bridgeport's director of personnel, said the city unofficially adopted Derek and Dustin Hotsinpiller after their police lieutenant father - an officer for nearly 30 years - died of a heart attack nearly a decade ago at age 52.

"It's a small community," Smith said. "It's very, very tightknit. Everyone knows the Hotsinpiller family. It's a very bad day for us."

Carter described the job of a U.S. marshal as a "dangerous business" of chasing down fugitives that carries high risks. "We get a lot of people who come to us from other professions," he said. "But this young man knew exactly what he wanted to do from a young age." Recently, marshals have been asked to track down convicted sex offenders who do not join their local registry.

The 8,000-member Marshals Service added 700 staff members last year to boost enforcement along the country's southwestern border. But Jason Wilder, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2272, which represents 5,000 marshals deputies, said he feared that the political debate in Washington over government spending will dash hopes for any budget increases next year.

"I can't say that if [Hotsinpiller] had had better equipment, he would have been spared," Wilder said. "But if we have less manpower, things are bound to happen as a result of less people trying to do the same job."

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