Trooper died on day porn investigation was started
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A West Virginia State Police officer's apparent suicide came on the same day an investigation began into whether he had child pornography, according to a report released Monday.
Cpl. Vincent Gall, an officer with the department for more than 10 years, was found dead of a gunshot wound on the back porch of his home on March 12. State officials had said he shot himself after he was told about an internal investigation into his conduct.
After his death, investigators found images on Gall's computer at the State Police detachment at Romney, but those images did not meet the criminal definition of child pornography, said Joe Thornton, spokesman for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.
Nonetheless, the images were not allowed on a trooper's work computer, Thornton said.
"This would have been dealt with as a personnel matter," he said.
Thornton said he was not sure if the official report was completed into Gall's suicide.
"Basically, what it is going to find is if he did commit suicide or not, and I think it's pretty much determined that he did," he said.
Police also took possession of Gall's personal computer equipment after his suicide, according to the report.
Gall had CDs, DVDs and floppy disks containing pornography as far back as 1998, according to the report.
Thornton said he has not seen the images but has been told the pornography found on both the work and home computers was of males and females whose ages couldn't be determined. There were a lot of images, most if not all of which had been digitally altered, he said.
"It is my understanding they take a person's head and put it on someone else's body. That is kind of what was done in some of these images," Thornton said. "They looked young enough to have someone consider it child pornography when the investigation started. So that is why it was investigated in the manner it was."
Gall was relieved of duty around 6 p.m. on March 12 and told he would be placed on administrative leave the following day, Thornton said.
After Gall was notified of the internal investigation, "his service revolver and badge were taken," Thornton said at the time. "Not a whole lot occurred after that. Apparently he left."
Troopers at the detachment were soon called out on an unrelated incident, Thornton said.
After responding to the call, troopers returned to their detachment. When they didn't find Gall there, they went to his house.
"The door was unlocked, they knocked and there was no response," Thornton said. The troopers then found Gall on the back porch.
Gall was with the department for 10 years, one in Martinsburg and the rest in Romney. He was not married and had no children, Thornton said.
Gall was the second State Police officer to commit an apparent suicide in the past year. Marlo Gonzales, a 13-year veteran of the force, shot himself in July with his service weapon inside his police cruiser while outside his father-in-law's house, police said.
State Police announced in January that they would implement yearly behavioral health screenings for troopers, based on recommendations from a panel studying suicides among law enforcement.
"This is really tough, the way this whole thing comes about," Thornton said. "My heart goes out to [Gall's] family. They are a couple of months removed from the situation."
To contact staff writer Gary Harki, use e-mail or call 348-5163.