Update on WV Trooper Suicide

Note: I suppose that we will find out soon what he was being investigated for… One thing we do know is that all of this Trooper’s pending investigations and cases are going to come to a halt – if not disappear entirely. Defense attorneys will probably be able to access the documentation of the investigation that lead to his suicide, as it will be relevant to the admissibility of any evidence gathered. The suicide itself could also be admissible if any of his cases proceed to trial. It certainly would help the usually-unsuccessful “the police must have planted the drugs” argument. – John H. Bryan, West Virginia criminal defense attorney.

From today’s Charleston Gazette:

Police believe trooper death was suicide

By Gary Harki
Staff writer

A West Virginia State Police corporal was found dead Tuesday in an apparent suicide, shortly after his gun and badge were taken and he was notified that he was the subject of an internal investigation.

Cpl. V.J. Gall, 46, was found dead of a gunshot wound on the back porch of his home, said Joe Thornton, spokesman for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

Gall was relieved of duty at about 6 p.m. Tuesday and told he would be placed on administrative leave on Wednesday, Thornton said.

After Gall was notified of the internal investigation, “his service revolver and badge were taken,” Thornton said. “Not a whole lot occurred after that. Apparently he left.”
Troopers at the detachment were soon called out on an unrelated incident, Thornton said.

After responding to the call, troopers returned to their detachment and discovered that Gall was not there. They then went to Gall’s house.

“The door was unlocked, they knocked and there was no response,” Thornton said. The troopers then found Gall on the back porch.

Gall is the second State Police officer to commit an apparent suicide in the past year. Marlo Gonzales, a 13-year veteran of the force, shot himself in July with his service weapon inside his police cruiser while outside his father-in-law’s house, police said.

Gall was with the department for 10 years, one in Martinsburg and the rest in Romney. He was not married and had no children, Thornton said.

Thornton would not comment on the details of the investigation of Gall.

“It was obviously serious enough to relieve him of duty pending further discovery,” he said. “A criminal investigation could have resulted.”

That investigation continues, he said.

“Quite honestly it has turned into a dual investigation,” Thornton said. “He was found in an apparent suicide, but we have to investigate the body being discovered. Not only do we have to investigate the job-related situation but also his death.”

Troopers went to Gall’s home not only to check on him, but also to “retrieve information for the pending investigation,” Thornton said.

The troopers, all of whom worked with Gall, were not the officers investigating his alleged professional misconduct, Thornton said.
“When he was relieved of duty he told them they could come to his house and retrieve information,” Thornton said. The information would be turned over to different investigators, he said.

Gall was to officially be placed on administrative leave Wednesday, when State Police Col. David Lemmon signed off on the order, Thornton said.

State Police have been studying law enforcement suicides since Gonzales was found in July. He was the first trooper to commit suicide since 1999.

A report released late last year on Gonzales’ suicide describes a man in emotional turmoil, one who had stopped taking his depression medication and who had suicidal thoughts at least a year before his death. It also describes a man unhappy with his job with the State Police and with his marriage.

“The department is still dealing with that,” Thornton said of Gonzales’ suicide. “Then we have this situation.”

State Police announced in January that they were working to implement yearly behavioral health screenings for troopers, based on recommendations from a panel studying suicides among law enforcement.

WV Senate Committee Passes “Castle Doctrine”

Note: Some states impose a duty to retreat from an intruder, even in one’s own home. Although West Virginia does not impose an actual duty to retreat from confrontation in one’s own home, it has somewhat been left up to interpretation. Furthermore, homeowners legally defending themselves can be sued civilly for personal injuries to an intruder – which is absolutely ludicrous.

This legislation is common sense. We know that in WV, especially in rural counties, we cannot depend on calling 911 to protect us from home intruders. We must be allowed to protect ourselves and our families from the crazy people of this world. As Charlie Daniels said, he’s “the kind of man that wouldn’t harm a mouse,” but if he catches somebody breaking in his house, he’s “got a twelve gauge shotgun waitin’ on the other side.” – John H. Bryan, West Virginia criminal defense attorey.

From today’s Beckley Register-Herald:

Panel approves ‘Castle Doctrine’ proposal

Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

CHARLESTON — West Virginians could yet face a lawsuit for gunning down an intruder in their homes, but using deadly force to protect hearth and home would be a “full and complete defense” in court under a Castle Doctrine bill approved Wednesday.

Without any discussion, other than counsel’s brief explanation, the measure cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously.

For two years, Sen. Shirley Love, D-Fayette, has pushed the idea at the behest of the National Rifle Association, which has succeeded in getting similar bills enacted in 20 other states, starting with Florida.

While existing state law doesn’t require that a homeowner retreat as much as possible to avoid a showdown with an intruder, as some states insist, it does leave open the door to civil suits by a wounded prowler.

Under the committee-approved bill, however, the “justified use of reasonable and proportionate force” can be used as “a full and complete defense to any civil action” pursued by an intruder or attacker.

“People have got to remember, this is not a license to kill,” Love said after the committee, on which he doesn’t serve, moved the measure out with a favorable recommendation.

“This is something that gives you protection in your own home.”

Last year, the full Senate approved an identical bill, but it became mired in the judiciary committee of then-new Chair Carrie Webster, D-Kanawha, in the House of Delegates.

The measure draws its moniker from old English common law that held every citizen, regardless of station in life, could consider his property as a castle, in which, as one old saw held, the wind, but not the king, may enter.

“It’s a bill that a high majority of West Virginians have wanted for so long,” Love said.

In the Senate, the sentiment was unanimous. All 34 members have signed on to it.

“It’s been the intruder that has been protected by the law instead of the home that he’s intruding in,” Love said.

Judiciary Vice Chairman Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia, pointed out West Virginia enjoys the lowest crime rate in the nation.

“But I think West Virginians really support their Second Amendment rights,” he said.

“And they believe it’s important that they be able to protect themselves. “

Over the years, he said, courts have issued rulings that reflect those constitutional guarantees.

However, Oliverio said a new Supreme Court some day might not see things as the current one does with regard to the Second Amendment.

“There may be changes that impact the ability for persons to protect themselves the way they see fit,” he added.