Deputy crashed trying to avoid motorist, state police find

by Kate Shunney

The West Virginia State Police investigation into the crash of a Morgan County Sheriff’s Department cruiser into a local salon has found that the officer hit the building while trying to avoid striking a car that had stopped in the southbound lane of U.S. 522.

Deputy Dennis Jenkins was injured in the October 21 crash and was taken by ambulance to War Memorial Hospital for treatment and observation.

Cpl. V.E. Branham of the Berkeley Springs detachment of the West Virginia State Police said he concluded his investigation on Sunday, October 27 after interviewing the driver of the stopped vehicle, Deputy Jenkins and others, and reviewing the deputy’s dash camera footage.

Cpl. Branham said the footage showed exactly what the officer and driver had described as a sequence of events last Monday, October 21.

According to Cpl. Branham, George Rannells of Slanesville had been in Berkeley Springs having dinner on Monday evening. He left South Ridge Drive shortly after 8:20 p.m. and started to pull onto U.S. 522 heading northbound.

Rannells stopped his vehicle across a lane of U.S. 522 when he saw emergency lights heading towards him, said Cpl. Branham.

Those lights were from Deputy Jenkins patrol vehicle. He and several other officers had been dispatched to assist Frederick County, Va. in looking for a fleeing armed robbery suspect in that jurisdiction.

When Rannells stopped in the roadway on U.S. 522, Deputy Jenkins swerved to the right of his vehicle to avoid striking him broadside. Jenkins’ patrol vehicle struck the bottom portion of the Total Image salon.

Deputy Jenkins’ airbag deploye dnd the officer had to exit his vehicle through the passenger side door. He was on the ground when a member of the public arrived on the scene, said police. Another Sheriff’s deputy was the first officer on the scene and requested further assistance for Deputy Jenkins.

Cpl. Branham said Tuesday morning that Rannells will be cited for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle. The Slanesville man cooperated with the investigation and had stayed on the scene of the crash last Monday, said Cpl. Branham.

Sheriff K.C. Bohrer, in a press release Monday, said Jenkins had not violated any law or department policy in the course of the incident, and he praised the officer’s response.

“Dash cam footage clearly shows Deputy Jenkins swerved to avoid striking this car directly in the driver’s side. No doubt Jenkins’ actions saved this motorist from severe injury and possible death. It is commendable that Deputy Jenkins put himself in a position of danger to avoid hurting another individual,” Bohrer said.