In an attempt to save the lives of law enforcement and honor a fallen deputy, Senate Bill 7 went into effect January 1, stemming from one of the most violent encounters Enon, Ohio has ever witnessed.
The Deputy Suzanne Hopper Act became effective Wednesday, January 1, and aims to provide members of the law enforcement community with a better understanding of the scene to which they respond, be it a traffic stop, domestic dispute, or any other call.
Suzanne Waughtel Hopper’s Act will require judges throughout the state to create a list of offenders who pose threats to law enforcement based on varying criteria. That information will then be passed along to all Ohio officers or deputies as they respond to such a call.
Offenders who have been granted conditional releases due to being found incompetent to stand trial or who have been found not-guilty by reason of insanity will now be added to the state-wide roster, as well as persons ordered to undergo mental health evaluations and treatment after being convicted of violent offenses. Dispatchers will now be alerted to the history of such individuals as calls are received, and then relay this potentially life-saving information to law enforcement officials as they respond to the incident.
Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly said Deputy Hopper would have handled the ill-fated Enon Beach shootout on New Year’s Day in 2011 much differently had she known of Michael Ferryman’s violent history. “When we responded to Enon Beach on that day in 2011, we had no knowledge that Ferryman had been found not-guilty by reason of insanity,” Kelly said. “We didn’t even know that he lived in Clark County,” he added.
“Suzanne was ambushed by him…if she would have known about his history, I know she would have taken precautions and handled the scene very differently,” said Sheriff Kelly, adding that the tragedy could have easily prevented had they know that Ferryman engaged deputies in another shootout ten years prior to killing Deputy Hopper. “Ferryman began a multi-hour siege with Morgan County deputies ten years prior, in the same trailer,” Sheriff Kelly said. “Had Suzanne known, I know she would have taken more precautions.”
Michael Ferryman, 57, who died in the shootout with law enforcement at Enon Beach on New Year’s Day of 2011, created a 26-hour standoff with sheriff’s deputies in Morgan County, Ohio in 2001 at another campground. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Ferryman and his girlfriend, Maria Holsinger-Blessing, resided in the same camper from which he shot Hopper at an AEP recreational grounds in Morgan County, Ohio, just southeast of Zanesville. The Dispatch reported that on September 5, 2001, Ferryman and Holsinger-Blessing became upset after seeing other campers take some firewood from a community wood pile, and began firing shots at other campers. As the responding deputies approached the scene, shots rang out from Ferryman’s trailer, and 26 hours passed before the couple surrendered the next afternoon.
After the Morgan County incident, Ferryman and Holsinger-Blessing were charged with felonious assault. Initially, Ferryman was found mentally-incompetent to stand trial, but later committed to a behavioral healthcare facility in Columbus in January of 2002. Having completed his time at the facility, Ferryman was tried again, and found not-guilty by reason of insanity, after which, he reportedly moved to a halfway house in Springfield under supervised release.
None of this was known to Deputy Hopper as she and Lieutenant Dusty White responded to Enon Beach that day on a report of shots fired into another camper. Hopper was investigating the scene, photographing a footprint on the ground near Ferryman’s trailer when he opened his door and shot her in the head with a shotgun. Hopper had only time to call White’s name and draw her weapon before Ferryman fired. White then radioed for back-up, and circled the scene, trying to find a safe place to retrieve Hopper’s body to no avail.
Deputies from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, as well as officers from German and Springfield Townships and the Ohio State Patrol rushed to the scene, many in civilian attire, including Sheriff Kelly, who attempted to coax Ferryman out of the trailer peacefully. After many attempts to draw Ferryman out of the trailer peacefully, he reportedly shot at German Township Officer Jeremy Blum, wounding the officer in the shoulder and collapsing one of his lungs. After that, a brief shootout ensued, and after a cease-fire was declared, Ferryman was found dead in his trailer. It is believed that the tragedy occurred after Ferryman became agitated by his neighbor or his neighbor’s dog, leading him to shoot at the neighbor’s residence, which prompted the call to which Hopper and White initially responded. Ferryman’s girlfriend lived with Ferryman at Enon Beach, but was reportedly shopping at the Dollar General store in Enon when the shooting occurred, according to the Xenia Daily Gazette.
Deputy Hopper, 40, who was the mother of two children, and had recently gotten married before her death, earned stellar commendations during her 12 years of service as a Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy, often going very long periods of time without calling into work once. Hopper was loved by many, and her death was visibly-disturbing to Sheriff Kelly, who had hired Hopper fresh out of the police academy. “This is the worst day of my entire law enforcement career,” Kelly said of the day Hopper was killed.
Lawmakers and law enforcement alike hope that Senate Bill 7, also known as the Deputy Suzanne Hopper Act, will save the lives of first-responders who may find themselves in a similar situation, as it will alert them that extra precautions must be taken. Under the act, law enforcement responding to the scene where a person with a history of mental illness is present must be informed of the offense, as well as its date, location, and the name of the courts issuing the information, as well as any other pertinent information.