Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 21, 2014

Trooper J.R. Coburn awarded Medal of Valor

by BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — At a private ceremony earlier this week in Charleston, the West Virginia State Police recognized Senior Trooper J.R. Coburn of the Welch Detachment with the Medal of Valor, the department’s highest honor. Coburn was honored for his actions on July 8, 2012, in Mercer County when a suspect who was in custody stole a Bluefield Police Department cruiser.

Coburn was working a contract detail in Mercer County, heard a report of the pursuit on 911 emergency dispatch, and came to the aid of the two officers who were attempting to regain control of the suspect — an individual with an extensive criminal background who had reportedly vowed not to be taken into custody by law enforcement again. The suspect wrestled the service weapon from one of the patrolmen and Coburn fatally shot the suspect before he could turn the gun on the officer.

“I didn’t find out about it until I went up there,” Coburn said. “They told me that I needed to shave real good, get a haircut and wear my dress uniform because I was going up to see the superintendent,” Coburn said. “The way I was thinking, going up to see the superintendent was not going to be a good thing. I never expected to receive the Medal of Valor.”

Coburn said that the award he received isn’t only just for him, but for all of the troopers he works with at the Welch Detachment. “They’re the best group of men you could ever work with,” Coburn said. “We’re as close as family. If I had to paint my garage, they would all come out to help me with it. I was thinking when I was driving back from Charleston that I was bringing the Medal of Valor back for all of them.

“It’s even better that I’m not the only one at the detachment who has received a Medal of Valor,” Coburn said. “Sgt. C.F. Kane has also received a Medal of Valor. He’s the only state trooper who has received two Medals of Valor.”

Colonel C.R. “Jay” Smithers presented awards to uniformed and civilian personnel during a private ceremony on Wednesday at the West Virginia State Police Academy in Institute. “These awards provide sterling examples as to why the State Police is West Virginia’s preeminent law enforcement agency,” Secretary Joseph Thornton of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety was quoted in a press release as stating at the ceremony. “I proudly congratulate each recipient.”

According to the narrative that Smithers read at the ceremony: “Officers would later learn that the suspect (that Coburn fatally shot) had an extensive criminal history, had fled the state of Florida to avoid prosecution on theft and burglary charges and had vowed not to be taken into custody by law enforcement again. The actions of Senior Trooper Coburn allowed all the officers involved in the incident to return home safely at the end of their shift and exemplify the characteristics of a West Virginia State Trooper.”

Coburn received the only Medal of Valor presented at the ceremony on March 18.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com