WINTERGREEN, Va. — A police officer was fatally shot during a struggle with a Maryland man in the woods in a Virginia mountain town, authorities said Saturday.
Wintergreen Police Department Officer Mark Christopher Wagner II was killed Friday night, Chief Dennis Russell said in a Facebook post.
Wintergreen police received a call about a man assaulting two other men at a home, Virginia State Police said in a news release. The two injured men had run away from the home by the time police arrived, and they were treated at a hospital for unspecified injuries that were not life-threatening, state police said.
Wagner found the assault suspect, 23-year-old Daniel M. Barmak, of Towson, Md., in nearby woods, and they got into a struggle. Wagner was shot during the confrontation and he died there, state police said.
Barmak, who was also shot, was taken into custody and was treated at a hospital for juries described as not life-threatening, according to state police.
Troopers said Barmak was charged with with capital murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and two felony counts of malicious wounding. He is being held at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.
Wagner remembered as 'dedicated officer' who served 'with honor'
Russell, the Wintergreen police chief, said Wagner, 31, had been with the force since August 2020. He previously served seven years with the Massanutten Police Department, Russell said.
The police chief said Wagner, who was known as Chris, enjoyed hiking and photographing nature in his spare time. Wagner “asked for and worked the midnight shift,” Russell said.
"Whenever you saw Chris in the daylight, he wore dark, dark sunglasses, and would crack a smile or two," Russell wrote. "Chris was dedicated to his job and whenever called for extra duty he was ready, willing and able."
Russell said Wagner will be emembered for "always going out of his way to cheer others up." The chief also said Wagner's "infectious laugh was loud and echoed throughout the office."
Wagner's father told Russell that "Chris was like Batman" and said he recently gave his son a batarang to go with the assortment of tools the officer carried on his belt.
"Chris is survived by his immediate family and the men and women who were his Wintergreen Police family," Russell wrote.
A fund has been establishedto help Wagner's family as Wintergreen Police is a private police department, so the officer's family is not eligible for state line-of-duty death benefits, according to officials.
"Chris answered his final call before taking his place with other heroes who have gone before him by laying down his life for the people he swore to protect and serve," Russell wrote. "Chris Wagner, Wintergreen Police Officer ID #15, was and always will be a hero."
Wintergreen is Blue Ridge Mountain town
About a 90-minute drive from Richmond, the Blue Ridge Mountain town of Wintergreen is best known for its golf and ski Wintergreen Resort. Arrowwood Lane appears on the Wintergreen Resort map as part of the property. The Wintergreen Police Department is a private police agency that serves the 17-square-mile Wintergreen community and, at times, areas of Nelson County.
"All patrol officers and communications personnel graduated from approved criminal justice academies in Virginia, and they complete in-service and advanced training as set by state guidelines," the department states on its website.
The department consists of a chief, two administrators, six communication officers, and eight patrol officers, according to the department's website.
"Wintergreen is a very safe place, but we do have crime here," the department's website states. "The numbers we report should not be shocking. Last year we had to report an increase in both persons and property crimes. The good news is in 2022 those kinds of issues fell back to normal levels for Wintergreen, maybe even a bit lower than average. We also saw the same domestic disturbances reports this year as last."