EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSIN-VEST: PART 3
from Eyewitness News Online
Wife Of Fallen State Trooper Shares Her Story As In-Vest Initiative Continues
Reported by: Leslie Rubin
Videographer: Troy Morgan
Web Producer: Leslie Rubin
Also Contributing: Larry Clark
Reported: Nov. 14, 2012 10:32 PM EST
Updated: Nov. 14, 2012 10:54 PM EST
Harrisville, Ritchie , West Virginia
We continue to bring you stories as part of our In-Vest initiative here at Eyewitness News, in hopes of raising money to buy life-saving bulletproof vests for police agencies who need our support.
For the first time since her husband was murdered, Diane Hacker-McCullough is sharing her story with Eyewitness News. It's a story of perseverance that is inspiring, and we hope it will inspire you to give back to your community.
Behind every picture that hangs on the wall of the State Police Hall of Honor is a story. The story of a trooper who made the ultimate sacrifice. Behind the glass, the eyes of Larry Hacker watch as passerbys walk through. He was the 35th trooper to die protecting his fellow West Virginians. This is his story.
"Everything a girl could ever want, is what he was in a man," says Hacker-McCullough.
She found love at a young age, and married her high school sweetheart when they were both 17, and soon they had two daughters. Her husband, Larry Hacker, was an avid outdoors-man, who loved deer season more than any other time of the year. Above all, he was a Christian man, a father, and a loving husband.
"He was just kind and wanted to always give everyone the benefit of the doubt and he was very trusting of people," she says.
Always having an interest in law enforcement, Hacker worked as a night watchman at Glenville State College for about eight years, but he had his eye on the West Virginia State Police. He tested four times to get into the academy. He was accepted in 1989. The second oldest in his class, he graduated at 30-years-old.
"He wanted something that was secure and sound and I guess respected," his widow explains.
Hacker was assigned to the state police detachment in Harrisville. It was a time when troopers had to buy their own bulletproof vests, and hand-held radios if they wanted them. Hacker owned a vest, but wasn't wearing it the night of April 8, 1993.
"I've always had the faith that God's in control of things," she says.
Hacker and trooper he was training responded to a fight between neighbors in rural Ritchie County.
"They were walking to the house and the fellow was evidentally in the woods or outside of the home with a gun and when Larry came into view he fired at him," she says.
Hacker had been shot. Dennis Ferguson then held officers at bay, running into the woods and continuing a 30 minute gun battle with police as they arrived on scene. He wouldn't even let paramedics near Hacker. They were finally able to reach him after Ferguson ran into the woods. Hacker was flown to a hospital. He died at one o'clock the next morning.
"Of course, the new guy was just out of the academy. I think about the guys that this just happened to. It's very hard to protect youself when your ambushed. The guys who just got killed, this happened to them," Hacker-McCullough says, choking back tears.
"That's just real reality about what your job's about when you see something like that happen," says Ritchie County Chief Deputy Ron Barniak.
Barniak was a deputy in the county when Hacker was murdered. His death shining a light statewide on the need for police officers to be outfitted with bulletproof vests.
"That could have been me," he says.
"Had he been wearing a vest and maybe turned three inches one way, or another that it could have prevented the taking of his life," she says. "My daughter Erica said one time, that it was kind of one of those epifany's. She said that you can change anything you want to in your life, but death can change everything and it sure did."
She says she can vividly remember praying that night for God to spare her husband's life, but at that same moment, something else came to her mind. Something that sticks with her even today, almost 20 years later.
"The scripture that I had in my mind was that 'all things work together for good, to them that love the Lord,' and this was something that worked for good because the state troopers now have department issued vests and they have handheld radios. I think all law enforcement agencies, are or hopefully should be, working to improve what equipment that they have because it could change drastically a lot of people's lives," she says.
Even today, some agencies can't afford to outfit all of their officers with bulletproof vests. That's why we're working with the West Virginia Sheriffs' Association to give back to the men and women who protect us every single day.
"They're out working and doing their best to protect the public and sometimes I think people do forget that."
We are in our home stretch of the In-Vest initiative. Next Wednesday (Nov. 21) is the final day to donate.
You can mail or drop off donations at:
1301 Piedmont Rd.
Charleston, WV 25301
You can also go to any City National Bank in the state. Just make all checks payable to In-Vest.
Thank you in advance for your support of this cause.
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