Derek Hotsinpiller remembered
Dustin Hotsinpiller misses his brother the most in everyday moments – like when he’s playing with his 16-month-old son and realizes the child won’t have the opportunity to meet his uncle, U.S. Deputy Marshal Derek W. Hotsinpiller.
Twenty-four-year-old Derek Hotsinpiller was killed two years ago today when 50-year-old Charles Smith shot him in the neck with a 12-gauge shotgun, as a team of law enforcement officers attempted to serve a search and arrest warrant on Smith at his residence at 319 Central St. in Elkins.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him or talk about him,” Dustin Hotsinpiller told The Inter-Mountain earlier this week. “It’s even more evident when I play with our little boy. I think about how he’ll never get to meet (Derek). Unfortunately, he’s going to have to learn about his uncle … through pictures and stories.”
A Bridgeport police officer for 10 years, Dustin Hotsinpiller is now interning for none other than the U.S. Marshal Service in Clarksburg. He’s in the midst of learning about the full scope of U.S. marshal duties, “everything from transporting prisoners to and from facilities and court to the service of warrants and tracking fugitives,” he said.
In April, he’ll be headed south to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga., where he’ll undergo a 17-week training program to become a U.S. deputy marshal – just like his brother.
“Derek was always telling me, ‘You gotta get in the federal system, you gotta get in the federal system,'” Dustin Hotsinpiller recalled. “He lived and breathed it.”
After all, that’s the same advice Derek received from their father, the late Jim Hotsinpiller, who was a longtime police officer with the Bridgeport Police Department.
“Their dad always told them to do something else besides be a police officer, but if they did decide to do that, they should be a federal officer,” said their mother, Pam Hotsinpiller. “When they were growing up, they would argue about what federal agency was best – Dustin was going to go with the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) and Derek was going to go with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration),” she laughed.
Pam Hotsinpiller also remembers the day Derek came from a career fair during his freshman year at Fairmont State University. That’s where he met Alex Neville, the U.S. supervisory deputy who would be critically wounded in the exchange of gunfire in Elkins on Feb. 16, 2011.
“His dad, my husband (Jim Hotsinpiller), had been a special deputy with the marshal’s service for years, and Derek remembered that and got to talking to Alex,” Pam Hotsinpiller said. “His freshman year he came home from college and laid that flier on the counter – I still have it – and said, ‘That’s what I want to do.'”
Dustin said Derek’s passing has “everything” to do with why he’s made the choice to join the U.S. Marshal Service.
“I think the loss of him was just the start of the process that got me moving onto the federal system,” he said. “It’s one of those things I wish he could see … but I know that he’s watching down.”
Although no other officers were killed that fateful February day, two other law enforcement officers were injured – Neville and U.S. Deputy Marshal Wesley “Fred” Frederick.
Smith was wanted for possession with intent to deliver crack cocaine and possession of firearms while being an unlawful drug user, and he had eluded police since he was indicted on the charges by a grand jury in 2006.
First Sgt. G.L. Stalnaker – then with the Elkins detachment of the West Virginia State Police – returned Smith’s fire, fatally wounding the fugitive before he could wound more members of Derek Hotsinpiller’s team. His bravery led to Stalnaker being named 2012 Trooper of the Year by the American Association of State Troopers in June 2012.
The healing and reparation process has been – and continues to be – ongoing for the Hotsinpiller family.
On Feb. 16, 2012, the one-year anniversary of Derek Hotsinpiller’s death, the former Clarksburg Federal Center on West Pike Street in Clarksburg was renamed the Derek W. Hotsinpiller Federal Building.
Following the deaths of Derek Hotsinpiller and another U.S. deputy marshal based in St. Louis, Mo., which happened just months apart, the agency took action to curb such incidents, said Gary Gaskins, the U.S. marshal for the Northern District of West Virginia.
“A board has been convened, and this has been ongoing,” Gaskins said. “They’ve come together and made some changes within the marshal service, as far as equipment and training. The mission is to get the individual, but be safe and prudent at the same time.
“It’s sad that it has to be something like this that brings changes, but hopefully, it won’t happen again,” he said.
A small measure of closure came in May 2012, when three people who had been living with Smith at the Central Street residence – Sherry Lou White, Cassandra Smith and Anthony Lambert – were sentenced in federal court for providing false information to police about Charles Smith’s whereabouts.
The Hotsinpillers also took action independently.
In early 2011, the family established the Lt. James W. Hotsinpiller and Deputy U.S. Marshal Derek W. Hotsinpiller Memorial Scholarship, which awards $500 per semester to selected Harrison County high school seniors with a 3.0 GPA who have been accepted to a West Virginia college or university and intend to major in criminal justice or another social science.
The scholarship honors Derek and his father, James Hotsinpiller, who passed away unexpectedly in 2001, just before his 50th birthday.
“We wanted to do something to honor our dad, but we never got around to it,” Dustin Hotsinpiller said. “But with Derek, we had to do something. It has grown and grown by leaps and bounds, and our goal is to get up to eight (honorees per year).”
The major funding source for the scholarship is the annual 5-K race that Dustin’s wife, Ashley, pours her heart into coordinating each year – Derek Hotsinpiller’s Fallen Star Memorial 5K race at the Bridgeport track. (This year’s race is slated for 8:30 a.m. June 8 at the Bridgeport track; visit www.bridgeporttrack.com for more further information.)
“Last year, we had almost 700 people come in for the race,” Dustin Hotsinpiller said. “You can’t say enough about the people sending thoughts and prayers and notes. The support we have been given from day one has been tremendous, and that’s what helps us get through.”
So do memories.
Pam Hotsinpiller said her son, Derek, had a penchant for collecting things when he was little – coins, beanie babies, baseball cards.
“When he was older, he collected commemorative knives, but the one thing Derek collected and valued the most were his friends,” she said. “He was just a good friend.”
Dustin Hotsinpiller misses the friendly rivalry the two brothers shared.
“We always used to compete against each other in 5Ks, that was one of our things,” he said. “Well, when Derek had just gotten back from (deputy marshal) training in Georgia, we ran a 5K, and I beat him by two minutes. … So I was giving him a hard time, saying, ‘I thought you came home all tough from FLET-C (Federal Law Enforcement Training Center).’
“We always had that rivalry with each other, and it was for the good. We were always pushing each other to do better.”
Contact Katie Kuba by email at email@example.com.