West Virginia Is Blessed With America’s Top Cop
Sergeant Gregory L. Stalnaker, 43, of the West Virginia State Police was named the American Association of State Troopers 2012 Trooper of the Year for his selfless act of courage in the line of duty on February 16th, 2011, when he shot and killed a suspect who was firing at officers attempting to serve a warrant, according to a news release.
Stalnaker was assisting the United States Marshal Service in Elkins, about 8:00 a.m. with the execution of a search and arrest warrant at the residence of Charles Edward Smith, wanted for possession with intent to deliver crack cocaine and possession of firearms while being an unlawful drug user. After getting no response at the door, a marshal forcibly entered the home, followed by Deputy Marshal Derek Hotsinpiller and Stalnaker. Several other officers were positioned outside the residence.
Once the officers were inside the house, Smith fired two shots from a 12-gauge shotgun at the officers from behind a closed door. One of the blasts struck Hotsinpiller in the neck, and as he fell to the ground, Smith continued to fire down the hallway at the officers. Another marshal was hit by pellets and debris, while a rifled slug grazed the shoulder of another.
The door blocking Smith was flung open when he fired, putting him in direct view of Stalnaker, who had taken up a partially concealed position. Smith was wielding a pistol in one hand and a shotgun in the other.Stalnaker stood his ground and returned fire on Smith, fatally wounding him, thus ending the incident. Smith returned fire, narrowly missing Stalnaker. Stalnaker’s actions made it possible to remove Hotsinpiller from the residence, although he succumbed to his injuries. One marshal underwent surgery to remove shot pellets from his abdomen, while the other was treated and released.
If not for the brave actions of Stalnaker, other officers may have died, and neighbors in the typically quiet neighborhood could have been in danger. Stalnaker courageously faced Smith, who had apparently been preparing for an encounter with police for some time. The follow-up investigation revealed that 22 loaded weapons, including a large-caliber fully automatic rifle and duffle bags of ammunition were strategically placed throughout the residence. He had been a fugitive since the 2006 indictment by a federal grand jury.
“In high threat situations like this, you have to be ready for anything,” explains Stalnaker. “My training instinctively kicked in, and we were fortunate that no other lives were lost that day.”
A trooper since 1994, Stalnaker was awarded the WVSP Medal of Valor for his bravery under fire and selfless actions during this incident. He also received the U.S. Marshal Service’s Valor Award.
As AAST Trooper of the Year, Stalnaker and his wife were treated by AAST to an all expense paid trip to Atlanta to receive his award and a cash gift of $1,000 during the June 2 banquet.
The AAST Trooper of the Year award is presented annually to a state trooper who exemplified traits of an outstanding law enforcement officer in the previous year.
For more information about AAST and the Trooper of the Year award, please visit www.StateTroopers.org.