From Chief Travis Bennett:
The Elkins Police Department and other area law enforcement agencies responded this morning to a report of a 4-year-old boy missing from his mother’s residence. Resources deployed for the search included K9s from the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office and the W. Va. Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, as well as the EPD drone. Citizens also assisted by reporting sightings.
The child was located approximately one mile from the residence. He appeared to have suffered minor abrasions and was transported to Davis Medical Center for evaluation. The incident is under investigation by EPD.
Mr. Pritt devoted his life to public service here in Elkins, across the state of West Virginia, and–during his 42 years as a member of the West Virginia Army National Guard–overseas while deployed for Operation Desert Storm. Here in West Virginia, he participated in operations mounted in response to aircraft crashes, floods, and civil disturbances.
After retiring from uniformed service, he worked eight more years as a civilian National Guard employee. Many current and past National Guard members considered him a mentor and expressed great sadness to hear of his passing.
Mr. Pritt was also a familiar face at Elkins City Hall, where he served for many years on the Elkins Police Civil Service Commission, an unpaid position with responsibilities related to hiring, promotions, and policy development for the Elkins Police Department. In this capacity, he was integral to the hiring of numerous EPD officers, including nearly every officer serving currently.
Statement of EPD Chief Travis C. Bennett:
At approximately 2:30 p.m. today, EPD officers attempted to perform a welfare check on a male subject in the vicinity of Livingston Avenue.
A BOLO alert issued by Upshur County law enforcement had advised that someone matching this man’s description had threatened suicide in the Buckhannon area and that his current whereabouts were unknown.
Upon being approached by officers, the subject attempted to flee in a motor vehicle, driving in a reckless manner and damaging two EPD cruisers before being stopped near T-Mart, on Davis Avenue. As officers attempted to extract the subject from his vehicle, he produced a handgun, which he pointed at one officer. Officers used a TASER and baton strikes to subdue the subject. After being restrained, the subject was transported by Randolph County EMS to Davis Medical Center for evaluation.
One EPD officer received minor injuries to his hand.
Chief of Police
Elkins, W. Va., January 22, 2021: Last night’s hours-long standoff at a residence on Evans Drive in South Elkins developed after an Elkins Police Department (EPD) SWAT team attempted to serve a felony warrant on an individual suspected of making terroristic threats, said Elkins Police Department Chief Travis Bennett. After hours of negotiation attempts proved fruitless, SWAT officers made entry and discovered the building’s lone occupant dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. EPD is not confirming the decedent’s name at this point in the investigation.
“Based on intelligence and prior communications with this individual, the decision was made to follow our high-risk warrant service protocol,” said Bennett. “That includes use of our SWAT officers and the department’s MRAP vehicle, as well as a public notice to shelter in place and the evacuation of nearby residences as a precaution.”
When the operation commenced at around 6:30 p.m., EPD had ample grounds for believing that the individual named in the warrant was in possession of numerous firearms and that any arrest attempt might turn violent.
“The suspect had made it known that he was armed and ready to confront law enforcement officers with deadly force and had prepared his residence for a standoff,” said Bennett. “Once we were on scene and had evacuated the neighboring residences, we found that the suspect had indeed barricaded himself inside the house and was refusing to come out.”
Over the next several hours, officers made numerous attempts to negotiate with the individual barricaded inside the residence. Officers also attempted to force the suspect outside through the use of non-lethal chemical irritants. These attempts were met with further threats by the suspect to come outside shooting at officers and to shoot any officers who tried to come inside.
Finally, around 10:30 p.m., SWAT officers deployed flash-bang grenades and additional chemical-irritant rounds, then entered the residence.
“Upon entering, my officers observed that the suspect had installed heavy barricades and other fortifications in the house,” said Bennett. “They found the suspect deceased with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”
Bennett confirmed that this was the only shot fired in the course of this incident; no shots were fired by or at law enforcement officers.
“I’m really proud of the skill and professionalism shown by all of the officers and other personnel who helped out,” he said. “I’m grateful for the assistance of the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office, the West Virginia State Police, the Elkins Fire Department, and Randolph County EMS.”
This is an ongoing investigation, so EPD is not able to release more information at this time.
The Elkins Police Department released the following on 1/21 at 10:51 p.m.
The shelter-in-place advisory for South Elkins has been lifted. There is no further threat to public safety related to this incident.
The Elkins Police Department has released the following advisory on 1/21 at 6:25 p.m.
Residents of the First Ward neighborhood in Elkins are advised to immediately shelter in place because of a police SWAT operation. We will announce when this order is lifted.
Elkins First Ward, AKA South Elkins.
The shelter-in-place order is for the area bounded to the west by Georgetown Road/Livingston Avenue; to the north by Twelfth Street; and to the east and south by the Tygart River. The advisory also applies to the Bridgewater neighborhood.
Until the all-clear is given, remain in your homes. Do not go outside. Stay away from windows. Do not answer your door.
We will announce when the operation concludes and the area is secure.
Chief of Police
Intervention Prevented Child’s Serious Injury or Death
Elkins, W. Va., December 21, 2020: Elkins Mayor Van Broughton will recognize three City of Elkins Sanitation Department employees for intervening to end an assault on a child in an alley near the city’s Sanitation Department building last week. The recognition ceremony, which will honor COE employees Brandon Harris, Brian Jenkins, and Zachary Ketterman, will be held in the Elkins City Hall council chamber at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
Last Friday, Harris, Jenkins, and Ketterman were working in the Sanitation Department building when they heard sounds of distress outside. Exiting the building to investigate, they saw a woman struggling with a small boy. A call to 911 around this time reported that a woman was attempting to “drown a child in a puddle.” Elkins Police Department officers raced to the scene.
Before police arrived, Harris, Jenkins, and Ketterman had separated the child from the woman, brought him inside the Sanitation Department building, and locked the doors. The child was wet and shivering, the men later told police, and his lips were blue. They dried him off and began wrapping him in articles of their own clothing to try to warm him up.
“I instructed Mr. Harris to take the child inside of my patrol car where the heat was running,” said EPD Senior Patrolman Kevin Shiflett, who was now on scene along with EPD Patrolman First Class William Butcher. “While Mr. Harris and the child got inside of the vehicle we were alerted by Mr. Ketterman and Mr. Jenkins that the female subject was back outside.”
When Butcher and Shiflett contacted the suspect, who was later identified as Catherine Briggs, she charged them and was tased before being restrained and placed under arrest. Officer Butcher took custody of Briggs while Shiflett ran back to his vehicle.
“I drove Mr. Harris and the child to the Davis Medical Center emergency department,” said Shiflett. “The child was later released. I did go and see the child on Saturday, and he appeared to be doing well, all things considered.”
Shiflett was impressed by the three Sanitation Department employees’ quick thinking and selfless actions.
“Brandon Harris showed great courage and compassion in a risky situation,” says Shiflett. “Seeing a child in danger, he didn’t hesitate to jump in and take that child to safety. I also commend Zack Ketterman and Brian Jenkins for backing him up, securing the building, and providing the child with warmth from their own coats.”
Shiflett says his investigation was further aided by Donald Huffman, an employee of a property management company that operates a nearby apartment building.
“Mr. Huffman contacted me to advise that their cameras had captured footage of the incident,” says Shiflett. “Mr. Huffman provided me with a clear video that’s really going to help make our case in court.”
The terrible incident could have turned out much worse if it hadn’t been for the intervention by Harris, Jenkins, and Ketterman.
“In a perfect world something like this would never happen at all but thank goodness it happened near three people who were so ready to help,” says Shiflett. “On behalf of myself, EPD, and the Elkins community, I want to thank all three of these men for stepping up like they did.”
Statement of EPD Chief Travis C. Bennett:
“This afternoon Elkins Police Department officers responded to the alley between S. Davis Avenue and S. Railroad Avenue for a report of a female subject attempting to drown a child in a water puddle.
“Prior to officers’ arrival, bystanders and City of Elkins Sanitation Department employees were able to pull the suspect off the child and remove the child to safety. The child was transported to Davis Medical Center by EPD.
“Officers located and arrested the suspect, identified as Catherine Briggs, near the scene of the incident. Briggs is charged with 1 count of child abuse creating serious injury or death. This incident is still under investigation and more charges are likely.”
Chief of Police
City of Elkins will test for entry-level police officer candidates on January 8, 2021. On that date, the physical fitness test will be at 9 a.m., and a written test will follow at 12:30 p.m. Candidates passing both the physical and written tests will sit for interviews on January 26, 2021, starting at 4 p.m.
After interviews are complete, successful applicants will be ranked by overall score on a list of candidates eligible for entry-level appointment to the department. There are currently two entry-level openings that could be filled from this list.
Applicants currently certified as West Virginia law enforcement officers are eligible for a $7,500 signing bonus, although they would join EPD as entry-level officers regardless of current rank. (more…)
From EPD Chief Travis Bennett:
“This Halloween is going to be different from past ones in many ways, but we all still need to work together to keep the kids safe.
“Parents, make sure your trick-or-treaters are visible to drivers by not using dark-colored costumes at night or at least adding reflective tape. Check costume masks to see if they restrict your child’s field of vision.
“Drivers, if you’re out and about on Halloween night, please slow down and keep your eyes open. Children might be running across streets in the middle of the block and might not be paying attention to traffic because they’re so excited.
“Council has asked that everyone take steps to keep things as safe as possible during the pandemic. The most important things would be not attending indoor parties with people from multiple households, trying to keep good distance while walking from house to house, and using self-serve candy bowls or other similar ideas to reduce the need for close interactions.
“If we all work together, we can have a safe holiday. I wish a Happy Halloween to the kids and I hope everyone has a great night!”