Editorial: Someone to watch over us

The tragic slayings of two WDBJ-TV employees on live television in Moneta, Virginia, stunned the nation this week.

The murders of TV reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward sent shock waves throughout newspaper and television newsrooms on Wednesday as reports of their deaths and the police hunt for the shooter were made public. We imagine more than one newsroom, as we did at our daily staff meeting on Thursday, reminded employees about the need for vigilance at all times.

We closely monitored television and online news Wednesday morning, and went on high alert when we heard chatter on our police scanner that the suspect may be heading north on Interstate 81 through Shenandoah County.

At around the same time, Virginia State Trooper Pamela M. Neff was at the Interstate 81 truck scales in Frederick County. She told reporters Thursday that it was her job to figure out where the suspect might go if he were heading north. She decided he would go east on Interstate 66, so she moved her cruiser to the interchange of I-81 and I-66 so that her License Plate Reader could snap photos of tags on vehicles passing by her. Twenty minutes after she had set up her watch, she got a hit – the suspect’s car had driven right past her a few minutes earlier, heading eastbound on I-66 as she had predicted.

Neff followed the vehicle and initiated a pursuit once she had backup. The pursuit ended when the suspect drove off I-66 into an embankment near Markham. He later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Neff told reporters, “I was just at the right place at the right time with the right piece of technology to get the subject,” Neff said. “Without it yesterday, I don’t believe that we would have been able to catch the suspect as quickly as we did.”

What a great job, Trooper Neff. If you had not taken the initiative to station your car at that interchange, who knows what might have happened next.

Thank you for watching over all of us.

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