CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A deputy U.S. marshal was killed and two others were wounded Wednesday in West Virginia when a drug suspect opened fire on them with a shotgun and then was shot dead, authorities said.
It happened at 8:30 a.m. as deputy marshals entered a residence in Elkins to serve a search warrant, U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Dave Oney said.
The suspect, Charles E. Smith, 50, was wanted on charges related to possession with intent to distribute cocaine, Oney said. A search warrant for Smith's residence had been issued Tuesday by a federal magistrate judge.
"Immediately upon entry into Smith's residence, three deputy marshals were fired upon by a shotgun blast and struck," Oney said. "Deputies returned fire on Smith and he was shot dead on the scene."
Dustin Hotsinpiller, a Bridgeport police officer, confirmed to The Associated Press that the deputy killed was his 24-year-old brother, Derek Hotsinpiller. The U.S. Marshals Service later confirmed Hotsinpiller had died at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown.
The service said a second deputy marshal was being treated and the third had been treated and released. The service did not release their names, nor provide details on their injuries. But State Police say the two suffered non-life threatening injuries.
Hotsinpiller went to work in the service's Clarksburg office after graduating from the U.S. Marshals Academy just over a year ago.
He graduated from Fairmont State University in December 2009 with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, said school spokeswoman Amy Pellegrin. He walked on for the university's basketball team as a freshman in 2005-06.
Jim Smith, the city of Bridgeport's director of personnel, said the city unofficially adopted Derek and Dustin Hotsinpiller after their police lieutenant father — an officer for nearly 30 years — died of a heart attack nearly a decade ago at age 52.
"It's a small community," Smith said. "It's very, very tightknit. Everyone knows the Hotsinpiller family. It's a very bad day for us."
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement the shootings demonstrate the dangers the nation's law enforcement confront every day.
"In fulfilling their critical duties, these courageous deputies put their lives on the line and put the safety of others above their own," Holder said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Deputy U.S. Marshal Derek Hotsinpiller, who made the ultimate sacrifice today, and with the two Deputies who were injured in the line of duty."
U.S. Magistrate Judge John Kaull in Clarksburg signed a search and seizure warrant Tuesday for the residence where Smith had been living since August 2006. According to the warrant, deputy marshals had until March 1 to execute it.
The three deputy marshals were among "several" who went to Smith's Elkins residence with two State Police troopers and members of The Mountain State Fugitive Task Force. The service did not say how many marshals accompanied the three.
Neighbor Mary Everhart said she didn't hear about the shooting until emergency vehicles arrived.
"They might have been raising hell and I didn't know about it," Everhart said. "I didn't hear a shot."
Everhart said the building where the shooting occurred is a large home that had been converted into apartments. She said she didn't know the occupants of the apartment and said she hadn't heard any commotion from there before.
"It was pretty quiet," she said.
Another neighbor, Linda Cross, who lives across the street from the shooting scene, said she "heard some thumping sounds" and went to watch.
"I didn't see anybody shot, but I heard some shots. I heard someone saying to call 911," she said.
Cross said she had spoken to the building's occupants previously but said she didn't know them well.
Elkins is 195 miles west of Washington, D.C.
According to the Washington, D.C.-based National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which tracks police deaths, 24 law enforcement officers have been killed in 13 states so far this year, 14 of them by gunfire.
The U.S. Marshals Service says the last time one of its employees was killed on the job was in January 2010 when a 72-year-old security officer died at the main federal court building in Las Vegas in a shootout with a shotgun-wielding assailant.
The last time a deputy marshal was killed by gunfire came during the 1992 FBI standoff at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.
Associated Press writer Vicki Smith in Charleston contributed to this report.
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