W. Va. EMT Recognized for Saving Gunshot Victim
Cumberland Times-News, Md.
Aug. 02—A Fort Ashby woman is alive today because Mike Lott hadn't gotten home yet.
Lott is a police sergeant for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
The good news for Joanne Wagoner was that Lott is also an EMT with the local ambulance squad.
He was only four minutes away from the Painter Hollow Road home where a bullet had entered her upper right chest and exited her back on the night of July 13, 2017.
"I was getting ready to come off duty," Lott said Wednesday at the Fort Ashby Volunteer Fire Department where he is president and a fire captain. "If I had gotten home and turned off my radio I wouldn't have known."
What Lott would not have known was that Wagoner, 65, at the time, and suffering from a .38 caliber gunshot wound, was lying at the bottom of the basement steps and had called 911.
"My understanding was that I was responding to an accidental shooting," Lott said.
That understanding would change.
Lott was familiar with the home, located out of sight of Painter Hollow Road and uphill by way of a rocky driveway near the top of Fort Ashby Reservoir.
He also knew Wagoner, as well as Fred Harshberger—who was also in the house when Lott arrived.
News stories shortly after the incident described Wagoner as Harshberger's girlfriend. She owns the house.
Lott said Wednesday he believes Wagoner had only a few breaths remaining when he reached her.
"I acted from instinct," he said. "I'd been training for this for 40 years but never had to apply a chest seal to a gunshot wound."
The problem was, though, Lott didn't have a commercial chest seal on hand.
"We do now, though, all my officers have them in their trucks," he said.
Lott went to his truck, found some plastic and cut it in half to make two seals, one for the chest and one for the back. Then he taped them to Wagoner's torso, stopping air from entering those holes.
"She started breathing better right away," he said. "But she was dizzy."
En route were West Virginia State Police and an ambulance squad.
The ambulance crew applied a commercial seal to the victim's chest.
"The temporary one on her back was holding good," Lott said.
Trooper 5, a Maryland State Police medevac based in Cumberland, flew Wagoner to the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center, where she was treated and eventually recovered.
W.Va. state troopers had some questions for Harshberger, according to Lott, and eventually charged him with attempted murder.
The troopers also recovered the handgun reportedly used in the incident after Harshberger had returned it to his gun cabinet, according to court documents.
Wagoner reportedly told W.Va. State Police Senior Trooper W.S. Weakley that she and Harshberger had argued before he appeared in the room and pointed a revolver at her, the criminal complaint said.
She stated her disbelief that the gun was loaded before Harshberger reportedly replied that it was and that he would prove it, according to the court documents.
Harshberger also told Natural Resources Police he and Wagoner had not argued and that he was showing her how to load the weapon when it discharged, the documents state.
Harshberger, then 64, was arrested and taken to the Potomac Highlands Regional Jail on a bond of $250,000.
An official at the jail told the Cumberland Times-News Wednesday morning that Harshberger had been released via court order in January.
A spokeswoman at the Mineral County Circuit Court said Harshberger is now detained by way of home incarceration as he awaits a trial. No trial date has been set.
Wagoner has moved away from West Virginia, according to Lott.
Recently, recognizing Lott's heroic effort, the DNR honored him with the agency's Medal for Lifesaving during a meeting at Stonewall Jackson Resort State Park.
Lott has been a DNR law enforcement officer for 12 years, working in Wayne, Hampshire and Wood counties as well as Mineral.
Before that, he served as an officer with the Keyser Police Department.
Currently, Lott is also a part-time officer for the Ridgeley Police Department.
"I just acted out of instinct," Lott said of the night he saved the life of a fellow Mineral Countian. "I'm glad I hadn't gotten home yet."