Pictured, from left, are Commissioner Sam Nolte, Chief Deputy Mike Coffman, Commission President Kristie Tenney, Sheriff Virgil Miller and Commissioner Doug Bush.

Upshur County Chief Deputy awarded Purple Heart for going ‘beyond the call of duty’ during active shooter incident in Lewis County

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission honored two men for their service to the community during an active shooter incident on I-79 northbound near the 99-mile marker on June 16, 2022.

The Upshur County Commission presented a Purple Heart to Mike Coffman, the Chief Deputy with the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office, after he was shot in the leg during a confrontation with the shooter.

“We appreciate that you went above and beyond the call of duty,” Upshur County Commission President Kristie Tenney said while presenting the Purple Heart on Thursday. “Shortly after [the incident], I spoke to your dad, and we were texting back and fort. He was so proud of you and the entire Sheriff’s Department and all the deputies — they really put their lives out there every day for us. I just want to tell you how much you mean to us. From the bottom of our hearts, we appreciate all of you. Today I would like to give you this Purple Heart and thank you for your service.”

Coffman thanked the commission for the honor but felt he didn’t deserve it more than any of the other officers who responded to the incident.

“I want to thank you all,” Coffman said. “I appreciate it, but I just want to say I don’t deserve it — or I didn’t do anything differently than any of the rest of these guys there. I feel like I don’t deserve anything for work because it’s just my job, just like any of the other guys you see here.”

Coffman credited the Assistant Director for the Upshur County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Derek Long, who witnessed the incident as it unfolded and provided valuable information to officers.

Pictured, from left, are Commissioner Sam Nolte, Assistant Director for the Upshur County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Derek Long, Sheriff Virgil Miller, Commission President Kristie Tenney and Commissioner Doug Bush.

“Realistically, Derek Long gets most of the credit, because everybody knew what was going on,” Coffman said. “If he were not doing that, we would have probably responded to that differently, and I think it could have been a lot worse, so I appreciate it.”

Coffman also thanked Sheriff Virgil Miller and Long for driving him to the hospital after he was shot.

“It’s humbling,” he said of the Purple Heart. “It’s something as a police officer you hope you never have to receive, but there are many officers out there who have, and I’m very blessed to be here to receive this today. It’s just it’s very, very humbling, and having the commission, the sheriff and the community’s support through the whole thing means everything.”

Coffman said he is close to transitioning from light duty now that he has recovered from his injury.

“It’s a good feeling to get back into the grind, but it’s a little bit different,” Coffman said. “I’m not going to tell you it’s not a little different, but I think that will get better.”

Tenney said the commission wanted to specifically thank Long for his service during the emergency.

“We want to recognize Derek Long for his outstanding service, above and beyond the call of duty,” Tenney said. “We appreciate what you did that day, and for the citizens of Upshur County and West Virginia, we just want to thank you very much for your service and what you’re doing here.”

Miller thanked Coffman, Long and other agencies for their service that day.

“We knew what was going on and it could have been a lot worse,” Miller said.”We could have gone in blind, if it hadn’t been for Derek. A lot of people could have gotten hurt. [Lewis County Sheriff] Dave [Gosa], I want to thank you for your cooperation and support from your department. I think the two departments worked so well together that day.”

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