It appears the Virginia State Police plays by a different set of rules when an investigation involves one of their own.
On Monday, a State Trooper shot and killed Vincent James Lumia — a 33-year-old Patrick County massage therapist, aspiring actor and filmmaker — at his mother’s home in Floyd County after, according to the VSP office in Salem, the man rammed two police cars and attempted to run down an officer.
VSP officials identified the Trooper only as a "27-year-veteran" of the state police force.
Five days later, VSP officials still refuse to disclose the identity of the trooper.
Yet when an investigation involves a shooter who is not a State Trooper, there is not such a delay in providing identification to the public. Last year, when Floyd County animal control officer Garland Nester was involved in an accidential shooting of his neighbor, State Police officials released his name right away. When Steven Dale Branscome wounded a State Trooper after a chase into West Virginia last year, his name and photo were out by the six o’clock news and assault weapon-toting state troopers from around the Commonwealth descended on Floyd County en masse even though seasoned investigators knew Branscombe was long gone and headed for Mexico.
Double standard? On the surface it seems that way and — judging from the phone calls to my office, home and cell over the past four days — there are some unanswered questions about that shooting on Eanes Road near Check on Monday. The sketchy report provided by VSP on the incident appears to point to a shooting where the officer had little choice but the delay in releasing more details — including the shooter’s name — raises even more questions.
State police officials say the matter is "under investigation." So was the shooting involving Bucky Nester. It took the VSP five months to bring his case to a grand jury. But that didn’t stop them from giving out his name and details of the shooting the day it happened.
So why the kid glove treatment for one of their own? If they are going put a county employee or an ordinary citizen out into the court of public opinion then they should apply the same rules for State Troopers. This kind of secrecy only fuels rumors that are already flooding the county. When speculation runs as high as it does on this case, full disclosure would seem a prudent course. Three Floyd County deputy sheriffs were on the scene. So, apparently, were Lumia’s mother and step father.
If any Floyd County official involved in the investigation is helping keep the lid on this then they need to be held accountable as well. According to the State Police, the county sheriff’s office and Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Murray Shortt are assisting in the investigation.
But who’s calling the shots?