BUCKHANNON – The sheriff of Upshur County was recently selected as one of just 20 law enforcement officers across the U.S. to receive a Survivor’s Award at a nationwide law enforcement conference.
Sheriff Mike Coffman was honored with a Survivor’s Award for his bravery during the June 16, 2022, incident that occurred along I-79 at the 2023 Street Cop Training Conference April 23-28 in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
Coffman’s award stemmed from his harrowing experience during a bizarre and tragic incident that transpired when 38-year-old Matthew Brevosky of Grindstone, Pa., had blocked both northbound lanes of I-79 near Exit 99. Brevosky, who officers eventually killed, was brandishing – and firing – a rifle from a prone position in what appeared to be a random fashion.
Brevosky had been swerving and then ultimately blocked the roadway on I-79 North between the 99- and 100-mile markers.
Coffman had been stationed on the south side of the northbound lane of I-79, attempting to turn drivers around who were approaching the scene. The officer, who was then chief deputy, had been running back to his cruiser to retrieve his long gun when a .308 bullet struck him in the right thigh.
The Street Cop company is comprised of retired law enforcement officers who began convening weeklong educational conferences in 2022 that its social media page describes as a “powerful skill, knowledge and professional character-building event.”
“There were 1,500 law enforcement officers there from throughout the country, and this was the second year for the conference,” Coffman said this week. “Last year, they recognized 15 survivors; this year, they did 20, and they selected me to come down, and I was one of the 20 who got one of the survivor awards.”
Coffman was accompanied by two Mountain Region Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force officers – Sgt. Rodney Rolenson with the sheriff’s office and Sgt. Marshall O’Connor with the Buckhannon Police Department. The sheriff said conference attendees had a chance to watch videos of the various incidents, and because the June 16, 2022, incident occurred along a major interstate highway, his experience seemed unique.
“We watched all the other cases; they asked the officer to come up on stage, and they played the video of the incident, and what I found was that this case was very different than most of the other cases,” Coffman said. “It was on a major interstate; most of them were close encounters, traffic stops, shootings and things of that nature. It was just a little bit different than the norm or what most survivors have seen.”
“There were also a couple of wrecks, and one officer got hit by a DUI driver, and the car was very torn up, and the police officer was paralyzed, but most of them were the end of pursuits or traffic stops where you walk up or in houses, and realistically, that’s more of what we’re prepared for and what we’re trained for,” he said.
Coffman said the active shooter incident in which he was involved was a wake-up call.
“That’s why after the incident, I went up to the county commission and said, ‘Hey, we aren’t equipped to deal with what we dealt with,” he said. “The people that I talked to there from throughout the country – from Florida, South Carolina and other places – I think it was fair to say that they all knew or they had all heard about the case, and they were like, ‘Wow, that’s you.’ They had heard about our particular case. That really made its way across the country, but it was very nice to get that; it’s nice to be honored. They did it up right.”
Coffman said the weeklong conference was enlightening and encompassed classes, vendors and a focus on interdiction – the act of interrupting the drug trade – and other drug task force-related topics.
Former Upshur County sheriff’s deputy Tyler Gordon and former Buckhannon Police Department officer Sam Kraemer were also in attendance.
“It was nice to see that West Virginia had representation,” Coffman said.