'Hero' police officer shot and killed at Wintergreen went 'out of his way to cheer others up,' chief says

Chief: Officer with 'infectious laugh' was 'dedicated to his job'
Wintergreen Police
Posted at 7:49 AM, Jun 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-18 08:14:35-04

WINTERGREEN, Va. -- Police officer Mark Christopher "Chris" Wagner II died Friday night after a confrontation with a Maryland man in the woods near Arrowood Lane, according to officials with Virginia State Police and the Wintergreen Police Department.

Wagner was called to the Arrowood Lane home at about 10 p.m. Friday, according to Virginia State Police who are handling the investigation.

"An emergency call came into the Wintergreen Police Department about [the suspect] assaulting two other adult males at the residence they were all staying at on Arrowood Lane," a Virginia State Police spokesperson wrote in an email. "After calling police, the two injured males fled the residence on foot."

Police said when Wagner arrived, he found the suspect, later identified as 23-year-old Daniel M. Barmak, of Towson, Md., in the nearby woods, and "a struggle ensued."

"During the course of the struggle over Wagner's department-issued handgun, Barmak shot and killed the officer," the Virginia State Police spokesperson wrote. "Barmak was also shot during the encounter."

"During the course of the struggle, the officer was shot and died at the scene," the Virginia State Police spokesperson wrote.

Officials said Barmak was taken into custody "without further incident by Wintergreen Police and the Nelson County Sheriff's Office."

Both Barmak and the two 23-year-old men who ran from the Arrowood Lane home were taken to UVA Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.

"Inside the residence, state police recovered illegal narcotics," troopers said. "Wagner's department-issued handgun was recovered at the shooting scene in the woods."

Barmak was charged 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.

The Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation's Appomattox Field Office is investigating the incident at the request of Wintergreen's police chief.

Mark Christopher "Chris" Wagner II
Mark Christopher "Chris" Wagner II

Wagner remembered as 'dedicated officer' who served 'with honor'

The 31-year-old officer was remembered for his strong work ethic and service to the community, Wintergreen's Chief of Police Dennis Russell said.

Wagner, who joined Wintergreen Police in 2020, worked for Massanutten Police for seven years where he began his career as a gate attendant before graduating from the Central Shenandoah Criminal Justice Academy, Russell said.

"Chris asked for and worked the midnight shift," Russell wrote."Whenever you saw Chris in the daylight, he wore dark, dark sunglasses, and would crack a smile or two. Chris was dedicated to his job and whenever called for extra duty he was ready, willing and able."

Russell said the avid outdoorsman, who spent much of his time hiking and photographing nature, was remembered 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 Police

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."

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.



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