By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Ending a 13-year stretch that included eight years as detachment commander, Sgt. W.C. Tupper of the West Virginia State Police has accepted a position to serve in a different leadership capacity with the State Police West Virginia Turnpike Division.
Tupper, who came to McDowell County in 2000, was appointed commander of the Welch Detachment in 2005. His assistant detachment commander, Sgt. C.F. Kane has been appointed commander of the detachment and Sgt. J.S. McCarty will return to Welch as assistant detachment commander.
During his McDowell County tenure, Tupper and the troopers in his command were successful in serving the county in terms of criminal investigations and through community service initiatives as well as taking an active role in the annual McDowell County Veterans Day Parade. Tupper has commanded the State Police color guard as they have led the parade that is steeped in tradition and dates back to 1920.
“I plan to continue with the tradition of leading the color guard in the Veterans Day Parade,” Tupper said. “I really appreciate everything that McDowell County does for veterans. I’m honored to be part of the parade.”
Tupper graduated from Rocky Gap High School in 1983, tried college for a time, but decided to enter the military. He spent six years in the U.S. Army, served with the 82nd Airborne Division and made numerous parachute jumps out of airplanes. After being honorably discharged from Army, he tried his hand at a civilian post in retail sales.
“I took a job in sales at an auto parts store,” Tupper said. “I missed the adrenaline rush I got from my time in the military, and decided to move in another direction so I went to the State Police Academy.”
Tupper graduated from the academy in August 1994, and decided to complete his undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice at Bluefield State College where he graduated in 1995. He was already an experienced trooper when he was assigned to serve at the Welch Detachment in 2000.
“Sgt. John Pauley was my commanding officer when I came to Welch, and I later served with Sgt. Greg Bishop before he was called back to active duty in the military,” Tupper said. McDowell County is rural and mountainous, and can present some challenges for law enforcement, but Tupper said that he has enjoyed serving in McDowell.
“I think the public relies on us for the job we do,” Tupper said. “It really makes me feel proud that they’ll call here to the detachment and ask for a trooper to help them. They know they can rely on us.
“We’ve come to realize over time that you can’t please everyone all the time, but it’s important to do our best all the time,” he said. In addition to seeing Tupper serving in uniform, the public in McDowell County has seen him roll up his sleeves and help in times of disaster. He expects that commitment to service won’t change with the transition to Kane as the detachment commander.
“I was Sgt. Kane’s training officer when he was assigned to the Welch Detachment after he graduated from the academy,” Tupper said. “We became very close during that time. I feel comfortable that he’ll continue to serve the county to the best of his ability.”
Kane, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, entered the West Virginia State Police’s 49th cadet class in October 1999, and received his first duty assignment in 2000 with the Welch Detachment. “I learned a great deal from Sgt. Tupper. He provided me with a wealth of knowledge when he was my training officer.”
With a pair of devastating floods in 2001 and 2002, along with several violent crimes, Kane and his fellow troopers with the Welch Detachment earned a much-deserved reputation for their willingness to tackle complex investigations. However, late in the evening of July 25, 2008, he and (now) Sgt. McCarty happened upon the early stages of a fire at the Tyson Towers apartment complex. Both troopers went into the heavy smoke of the fifth floor of the complex, determined that two females were trapped in the facility and remained on the scene to assist firefighters who were better equipped to get the people trapped by the smoke to safety.
As a result of the life-saving actions taken by Kane and McCarty that night, both troopers received the Medal of Valor, the highest award presented by the West Virginia State Police.
Although Kane frequently maintains that he was just in the right place at the right time, he was placed in a challenging position on another occasion in 2011 — this time while he was serving with the Gilbert Detachment. On March 3, 2011, Kane responded to an emergency dispatch that a backhoe had slipped into the Guyandotte River in Mingo County.
Kane was familiar with the area where the backhoe entered the river, and knew the 91-year-old man who was in the cab of the backhoe — Opal Perry. Kane and firefighters with the Wharncliffe Volunteer Fire Department and Logan County Swift Rescue Team were in the cold water for two hours attempting to rescue the elderly gentleman. In spite of the efforts of all involved, Perry did not survive the ordeal. His rescuers were treated at the scene.
Several months later when the State Fire Marshal’s office came to Gilbert to present awards to the firefighters who attempted the rescue, Kane also received recognition from the fire marshal. In March of 2012, the State Police honored Kane again with his second Medal of Valor.
Kane said he has mixed emotions about his appointment as commander of the Welch Detachment. “I’m happy to receive the opportunity, but sad that I won’t be working with Sgt. Tupper,” Kane said. “But I am happy to be able to work with Trooper McCarty again,” he added.
— Contact Bill Archer at firstname.lastname@example.org