The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

State News

December 15, 2013

W.Va. lawmakers asked to honor slain state troopers

BERKELEY SPRINGS — Eastern Panhandle law enforcement officers are leading an effort to rename a stretch of highway in honor of two West Virginia state troopers who were killed in 1977.

Troopers Charles Henry Johnson and Thomas Dean Hercules were gunned down by fugitive Larry Parker in Paw Paw, prompting one of the area’s largest manhunts in recent history. Parker’s body was found a few days later in a cave behind a frozen waterfall. He had committed suicide.

The Journal reports that K.C. Bohrer is spearheading an effort to name a portion of U.S. 522 near the State Police barracks in Berkeley Springs in honor of the two troopers. The retired Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department captain, who now works as a sheriff’s investigator in Frederick County, Va., is asking West Virginia lawmakers to approve a roadside plaque and dedication ceremony honoring the officers.

“I don’t want it to be forgotten, and I think this is a way to ensure that their sacrifice won’t be forgotten,” Bohrer said. “It’s a small thing that we can do to give something back. It’s not only important for their memory, it’s not only important to their family, it’s important to those of us who still work. In the back of your mind as a police officer, you want to know that somewhere down the line people won’t forget what you did.”

Unlike surrounding states, the practice of dedicating sections of highways, bridges and overpasses in honor of police officers who have died in the line of duty is not something that West Virginia has implemented until recently, according to Bohrer.

Earlier this year, law enforcement officers traveled to Interstate 79 in Roane County, where a bridge and a nearby road were dedicated in honor of Cpl. Marshall Bailey and Trooper Eric Workman, who were shot and killed during a traffic stop in August 2012.

After the dedication, Bohrer began his effort on behalf of Johnson and Hercules. He also has asked that the overpass bridge on Interstate 81 at Exit 23 in Falling Waters be dedicated in honor of and named after Berkeley County Deputy John L. Burkett, who was killed in a head-on collision in Pennsylvania in 2001 while transporting a prisoner.

“I really get emotional about this, but I just feel like they deserve never to be forgotten,” Bohrer said.

Like Burkett’s death in the line of duty, Bohrer says he has never forgotten the sacrifice made by Hercules and Johnson. Bohrer, who grew up in Berkeley Springs, was a senior in high school when they were shot and killed. He was friends with Johnson and a high school classmate of Hercules’ sons.

Retired Trooper Ron See said he remembers how people dropped what they were doing and joined the hunt for the troopers’ killer.

“It was just a big outpouring of support from everybody,” See said. “Everyone was shocked. They couldn’t believe it. Every available trooper in this area of West Virginia was back there as well as probably every available state trooper from the Maryland State Police.”

When the manhunt ended, the funerals followed. Hundreds attended both services.

Bohrer said he hopes the West Virginia Legislature will approve the memorials to Hercules, Johnson and Burkett during the next session. See joins him in that hope.

“I’d like to see something done for them just to honor them with that small gesture, especially since it’s little to ask from the state to do that,” See said.

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