Day: March 31, 2008

If it bleeds, it leads…

They descended on Floyd like locusts in a Biblical feeding frenzy, the TV trucks, the talking heads and the rest of the pack that follow blood and guts stories. They are the vampires of the journalism trade, the sensationalists driven by a TV news culture that calls car chases "breaking news" and feeds on the blood of of victims.

Floyd tops Virginia news tonight as Steven Dale Branscome continues to elude capture. Not a surprise. Branscome is the grandson of former Floyd County Sheriff George Branscome and he is at home in the woods and it will probably take more than armor-clad SWAT teams waving M-16s and time-consuming roadblocks to trap a country boy on his home turf.

But Branscome is sought for shooting a State Trooper and he has sworn he will not be taken alive. This is the kind of bloodlust story that sends TV anchors into on-screen orgasms.

They call these exercises "location stand ups" and it is designed to show viewers that their local TV crews are on the job, even though they could tell the same story from their studios in Christiansburg, Roanoke and Lynchburg and the average viewer could care less.

Eventually, the law will get Branscome — dead or alive — but probably long after the satellite  trucks have moved on. The story is already going stale and there is always something else to sensationalize.

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The rest of the story…

Last week, I wrote about a Floyd County Sheriff’s Deputy who emerged from the county dispatch center at the Court House while my Jeep’s car alarm was blasting away because of a short circuit. He looked over at the Jeep with its flashing lights and wailing siren, then got into his patrol car and drove away.

Steve Graham, an investigator with the Sheriff’s Department, told me today that the Deputy was en route to a domestic disturbance call.

Too many people are injured or killed because of domestic fights that go bad. The Deputy was right to put the domestic all above a car alarm that might or might not have been triggered by a thief.

I stand corrected. My apologies to the Deputy and the Sheriff’s Department.

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On the lam

UPDATE: Police Monday afternoon suspended the manhunt for Steven Dale Branscome after failing to locate him in the Indian Valley area of Floyd County. The search is now being coordinated out of the Floyd County sheriff’s office and the roadblocks have been taken town.

A massive police manhunt was underway earlier in Indian Valley as well as other parts of Virginia and West Virginia for Branscome (right), a Floyd County man accused of shooting a Virginia State Trooper along with collection of other crimes.

If you see this man or know where he is, contact the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department at (540) 745-9334. Do not approach him or attempt to detain him yourself. He is armed, desperate and extremely dangerous. He has told people that he will not go back to jail and that usually means he will not be taken down without a fight.

Reports Shawna Morrison of The Roanoke Times:

A man who police suspect of shooting a Virginia State Police trooper, stealing guns and a string of vehicles, and threatening to kill at least one person, was spotted in Floyd County on Sunday morning but continued to elude police into the night.

The search for Steven Dale Branscome, 32, was concentrated Sunday on a stretch of farmland around Indian Valley Elementary School, where police from at least 16 agencies had set up a command center and many planned on spending the night.

Shortly before 10:30 a.m. Sunday, an investigator with the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office spotted the pickup truck that Branscome was suspected of stealing Saturday in Kellysville, W.Va., state police Sgt. Bob Carpentieri said.

The investigator contacted a state trooper who was in the area, and the pair followed the truck — which still bore the West Virginia license plates that police had told drivers to be on the lookout for Sunday — onto Indian Creek Road.

The truck pulled into a driveway and the driver jumped out and ran into a wooded area, Carpentieri said. He said the Floyd County investigator was familiar with Branscome and recognized him.

Seems like too many Floyd Countians lately are getting into trouble with the law, from the man who stole a Jeep Wrangler from a car dealership in Montgomery County and killed a motorcyclist in a Christiansburg hit-and-run to another who used his car to run down an employee of Slaughter’s grocery in the store parking lot and who is also a prime suspect in a hit-and-run death of a lawyer in Roanoke County. And let’s not forget a Floyd woman facing charges in Patrick County for allegedly feeding her 10-year-old son Viagra before having sex with him.

Floyd is getting a reputation far beyond Bluegrass music, The Friday Night Jamboree and an arts and crafts community. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity. I’d say recent news out of the county disputes that.

(Photo courtesy of The Roanoke Times)

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