- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2003

RICHMOND A state trooper was fatally injured early yesterday while apparently being dragged by the car he had pulled over on an Interstate 64 exit ramp.
Trooper Michael Todd Blanton, 29, of Hanover County died just before 4 a.m. at Medical College of Virginia Hospitals, state police Sgt. David Chewning said. He is survived by his wife, Dana, and a 6-year-old son, Spencer.
Richmond-area resident Shawn Delano Gregory, 34, was charged late yesterday with second-degree murder of a trooper, felony hit and run and failing to stop for a law enforcement officer. He was arrested near the scene and remained hospitalized under police guard with injuries that are not life-threatening.
Henrico County Commonwealth's Attorney Wade A. Kizer said the murder charge could be upgraded as the investigation continues. Virginia law allows the death penalty for first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer.
"Incidents like this remind us of what a dangerous profession law enforcement is," Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Gerald Massengill said at a news conference. "I ask all Virginians to say a prayer tonight on behalf of all our law enforcement families."
Trooper Blanton was dragged "several hundred yards" along the exit ramp and northbound Gaskins Road. A video camera in his cruiser captured much of the incident, but police would not disclose details about the footage.
Col. Massengill said Trooper Blanton had stopped a 2000 BMW at about 2:30 a.m. on the westbound I-64 exit ramp.
Henrico County police received a report at 2:32 a.m. that a car had crashed on Gaskins Road. When police arrived, they discovered the wrecked BMW and the injured trooper. Police found a man, apparently the driver of the car, at a service station about a quarter-mile away.
In his nearly five years with the state police, Trooper Blanton had earned a reputation as an aggressive enforcer of the state's drunken-driving laws in and around Richmond. He received awards from Mothers Against Drunk Driving two years in a row and led the Richmond-area division in DUI arrests in 2002.
In 2001, he pulled over state Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr. for driving under the influence just after midnight on Interstate 64 at Richmond's western border with Henrico. Mr. Norment pleaded guilty to the charge.
Trooper Blanton's death is the second trooper fatality in the past three months.
In October, Trooper Mark Cosslett, 40, was killed when his motorcycle was smashed by a tow truck on the shoulder of Interstate 95 in Springfield. He had been responding to a report of gunshots during the sniper attacks.

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