Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

Slain trooper laid to rest Seven-mile procession includes hundreds of police


SALISBURY -- Hundreds of police from 20 states formed a seven-mile funeral procession yesterday through this city to the Wicomico Presbyterian Church where they mourned a brother officer, Tfc Edward A. Plank Jr., who was shot to death on a dark highway earlier this week.

"Trooper First Class Edward Plank is dead, and that's a tragedy," the Rev. William Bruce Kirk told mourners who filled the historic church and spilled out into a tent to watch the service on closed-circuit TV. "But you are alive, and that is an awesome blessing. Don't take your life for granted."

Trooper Plank, 28, was shot in the face with a .45-caliber handgun after he stopped two men for speeding in a southbound lane of U.S. 13 near Princess Anne early Tuesday. The bullet killed him instantly, police said.

His backup officer, Trooper Dennis Lord, returned fire and hit one of the suspects in the head.

William S. Lynch, 21, of Brooklyn, New York, and Ivan F. Lovell, 25, of Manteo, N.C., who were captured nearby, have been charged with first-degree murder.

A pound of cocaine was found in their car.

On a drizzly and windy day, the streets around the church in downtown Salisbury were closed to traffic but crowded with police cruisers and motorcycles. Each officer wore a black band stretched across his badge.

About 1,500 Maryland troopers and Salisbury city police from among the estimated 2,000 officers at the funeral stood at attention and formed a line six officers deep that stretched one block across the front of the old stone church.

They saluted as pallbearers carried Trooper Plank's casket into the church.

A few minutes later, a limousine carrying the trooper's wife, Lori, and daughter, Hailey, 7 months, pulled up behind the hearse. Mrs. Plank, looking pale and tired, held Hailey on her lap and peered out the window at the crowd. Hailey, in a dark blue dress and hat with a red bow, gurgled and stared as state police superintendent, Col. David B. Mitchell, led them up the stairs and into the church.

Inside were dozens of police and state officials, including Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

"I did not know Trooper Plank, but I, like you, feel part of this agony," Governor Glendening said. "What is it that drives a man or woman to risk their life? I know it is because they care, really care, and want to make a bad situation better."

Sobs, mixed with Hailey's childish burbling, filled the church as Colonel Mitchell, standing next to the casket draped with the Maryland flag, talked of Trooper Plank's accomplishments.

"His personal file was filled with letters of commendation and appreciation," Colonel Mitchell said.

He read from Trooper Plank's job application the young man's explanation of why he wanted to become a state trooper.

"I believe it would be a very interesting and rewarding career," Trooper Plank wrote in 1987. "I would be honored to serve my state."

After the 90-minute service, a hearse carrying Trooper Plank's body was led by dozens of police cruisers past the site of the shooting on U.S. 13, past the Princess Anne barracks where he worked, to the Rehoboth Presbyterian Cemetery where he was buried.

At the Salisbury barracks on Thursday night, as friends and relatives were gathering for a reviewal, Trooper Plank was remembered as a "practical joker with a big heart and smile."

"Eddie was a real nice kid," said Cpl. Douglas Megee. "He was a hustler. He was fun to have on a shift. He pulled practical jokes, and he didn't mind having them pulled on him."

Trooper Krah Plunkert, who was Trooper Plank's roommate at the state police academy, remembered how his friend tried to set Trooper Plunkert's pants on fire during class.

"He was sitting next to me and I kept smelling something burning," Trooper Plunkert said. "I looked at him and he was laughing. Finally I saw that I had a hole and singe mark on my pants leg."

While police mourned the fellow officer, residents of this city, where support for police is strong, expressed outrage at the shooting.

"They ought to shoot the S.O.B.s," said Buddy Semelor as he ate eggs and toast at English's Family Restaurant across from the street from the Salisbury barracks. "That trooper was just trying to make a living for his wife and little baby. I wish I was going to be on that jury."

A few tables away, Shirley Smullen and Patsy Lecates had similar thoughts.

"I think people are fed up," Mrs. Smullen said.

They were particularly angry when they learned that Mr. Lovell, who is in satisfactory condition at Peninsula Regional Medical Center here, was on parole after being convicted of drug charges in 1993. Mr. Lynch, held without bond in the Somerset County Detention Center, was on one year unsupervised probation after pleading guilty to possession of marijuana charges in 1995, according to North Carolina court records.

"The police are targets for them," Mrs. Lecates said. "But the state police are all we have here."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad