A double standard by the Virginia State Police?

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?

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?

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16 Responses

  1. Those of us who were not there will never know every detail. And until any one of us is in the predicament of having a violent person out of control coming at us, we can NEVER say what we would really do. BUT….from the calm and cozy seat of our homes, many of us are asking “wasn’t there an alternative?” Couldn’t the tires be shot out, the radiator? These officers did not know if Lumia was armed…they were dealing with alot of unknowns….what a mess. I sure do feel for the State Police officer, and so, so much for Vince’s family. It is a very sad situation…It raises alot of questions about police conduct, double standards, and how to manage/help the population with mental illness or chemical imbalances. There are no easy answers.

  2. Doug, first let me say this is NOT a shot fired at you. I think your concern and question is reasonable.
    Names of Law Enforcement Officers that have had to use deadly force in the commission of their duties are not published simply to protect them and more so, their families. This practice was established decades ago because of retaliation by friends and family of law breakers that forced LEOs to use deadly force.
    At the risk of siding, I will say that law enforcement is usually a thankless job. Very few people know how little money that profession brings home relative to the danger of the job. Every spouse of a law enforcement Officer knows that, when their loved one walks out the door to go to work, that may be the last time they see them.
    I try hard to remember that when someone calls 911 for help from the police, it’s the LEO that runs the risk of being killed because somebody is trying to steal a lawn mower, a husband is drunk and beating his wife or a desperado has a car trunk full of heroin and is willing to kill to avoid capture.
    Give ’em a break. They’re doing a job that most people can’t or won’t try to understand and they know that they may die doing it.
    By the way, my wife and I are moving to Floyd from South Carolina on Jan. 28th and I’m looking forward to meeting you. Can I buy you a cup of coffee at the Cafe Del Sol?
    Jim

  3. …but that is not normally the policy in Virginia. Names of officers involved in shootings have been released by local and state authoritities in the past. I’m told State Troopers have a "contractual" agreement with the Commonwealth that says their names will not be released until the investigation is complete.  That still, in my opinion, establishes a double standard between ordinary citizens and LEOs.  Ordinary citizens involved in shootings are also subject to retaliation.

    The irony here is that most everyone in Floyd County knows the trooper involved in this shooting. This is a small county and there is only one active trooper with 27 years of experience on the job. I could print his name but I won’t until it is officially released.

    That being said, I still think the public deserves an explantion on why there is a double standard.

    Come by the studio or give me a call when you and your wife get to town on the 28th. The coffee at Cafe del Sol is on me.

  4. I have read so many comments of opinions about what may have happened the night of this incident. Most importantly is that there was a person who lost their life and that was a person who has a family that is suffering a traumatic loss of someone they deeply loved! Speculation and mention of mental illness does not make it any easier for this family and I feel it is very unfair to them. I’m sure there are many of us who wish more than anything the outcome would have been so very different, I do!

    Vincent was one of the most caring people I EVER knew and have endless wonderful memories of my relationship with him! He was such a unique and loving person who I will dearly miss and NEVER will forget. My heart goes out to his family during such a heart wrenching time!

    Please don’t pass judgement on a person as you don’t know what they may have been going through…

    I can honestly say that Vincent was without a doubt one of the most wonderful people that I was given the chance to share many fond memories with…I will honor his memory and ALL that he stood for FOREVER!

    Beth Anne Burton Coe

  5. Those of us who were not there will never know every detail. And until any one of us is in the predicament of having a violent person out of control coming at us, we can NEVER say what we would really do. BUT….from the calm and cozy seat of our homes, many of us are asking “wasn’t there an alternative?” Couldn’t the tires be shot out, the radiator? These officers did not know if Lumia was armed…they were dealing with alot of unknowns….what a mess. I sure do feel for the State Police officer
    search , and so, so much for Vince’s family. It is a very sad situation…It raises alot of questions about police conduct, double standards, and how to manage/help the population with mental illness or chemical imbalances. There are no easy answers.

  6. I’d really like to talk to you about knowing VJ. It seems like many people were touched by his life, and I’d like to get a glimpse of who this person was and why people were so affected by him.

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