If more than 6,000 Facebook users have their way, a prominent building in downtown Clarksburg could one day bear the name of a deputy U.S. marshal who was gunned down in the line of duty last week.
A petition to rename the Clarksburg Federal Center in Harrison County after slain Deputy U.S. Marshal Derek Hotsinpiller is gaining popularity on the Internet.
As of Thursday afternoon, 6,674 people had joined a Facebook group titled "Deputy Marshal Derek Hotsinpiller Memorial Petition."
"This group is to honor Deputy Hotsinpiller, not only for his sacrifice to make the state he loved a safer place, but the determination he had to make the United States a safer place," Group administrators wrote in the description section.
"We are proposing a name change of the Clarksburg Federal Center, to honor Deputy Hotsinpiller."
Hotsinpiller, 24, was killed the morning of Feb. 16 while serving a warrant on a man in Elkins wanted on drug and gun possession charges.
Marshals had been searching for 50-year-old Charles Smith for over a year when they received information that he was likely holed up in the Central Street house in Elkins.
The team of marshals, which included Hotsinpiller, Supervisory Deputy Marshal Alex Neville and Deputy Marshal Wesley "Fred" Frederick, and two State Police troopers went to the home to serve a search warrant and were fired upon by Smith.
Hotsinpiller was struck in the neck by the shotgun blast and died as a result of his injuries. Neville and Frederick were also wounded in the gunfire.
Smith was shot and killed by a trooper returning fire.
Hotsinpiller and the others worked out of an office in the federal courthouse in Clarksburg, just a block away from the Clarksburg Federal Center on West Pike Street.
Jim Hunt, a Clarksburg city councilman, said he decided to join the Facebook group because of the young marshal's ties to the community.
Hunt said he supports the effort as a private citizen, not as a city council member.
The fallen deputy marshal was born and raised in Bridgeport and earned his bachelors in criminal justice from Fairmont State University in 2009. His late father, Jim, was a Bridgeport policeman for 26 years before his sudden death in 2001.
His brother Dustin works as a Bridgeport detective.
"It's a personal thing and it's something I think would be very well received around here," Hunt said.
In the wake of the tragedy, Hunt said it makes sense that so many people want to rename the building in Hotsinpiller's honor. He wondered if the sentiment would remain popular over time.
He cited the naming of the road leading to the FBI's Criminal Justice and Information Services center in Clarksburg after Jerry Dove, an FBI special agent killed in a 1986 shootout in Miami. Dove was a Dunbar native.
"The difference here is that Derek was a local," Hunt said. "He came from a law enforcement family - his brother is in law enforcement, his father was in law enforcement - and he was pretty well known in the area.
"I think that will have a lot to do with if this actually happens."
The city doesn't have any control over renaming the federal building. That action has to be taken up by the state's congressional delegates.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said she had received a number of questions for the senator regarding the potential renaming of the building. Manchin was out of the country Thursday visiting with American troops in the Middle East and was unavailable for comment.
Phone messages left for Rep. David McKinley were not immediately returned.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at email@example.com or 304-348-4850.
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