Shooting victim was getaway driver
West Virginia State Police on Wednesday identified the man shot by a Parkersburg police officer after a purse-snatching at the Grand Central Mall Tuesday afternoon as 24-year-old city resident Steven Lewis Pfalzgraf.
Today, Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin plans to release the names of the officers involved in the incident.
“I just want to get them prepared mentally to deal with the effects of people knowing who they are and what happened to them,” Martin said.
According to West Virginia State Police 1st Sgt. Michael Baylous, Pfalzgraf, last known address of 604 32nd St., Parkersburg, was driving a car into which John Ragalyi, no age listed, of New Matamoras, entered after allegedly stealing a purse from a woman in the mall food court shortly before 1 p.m.
The alleged theft was observed by two Parkersburg Police officers who were in the food court participating in an observation exercise for a surveillance class through the Homeland Security Office. Baylous said the officers identified themselves as police and ordered the suspect to stop. He did not, running to the parking lot between the food court entrance and J.C. Penney.
Ragalyi got into the car, in which his wife, Jenna, was also a passenger, Baylous said. One of the officers reached in and tried to remove the key from the ignition, which Martin said is not an uncommon tactic.
“That’s a very good way of immobilizing a vehicle,” he said.
Pfalzgraf then allegedly put the car in motion, dragging the officer along. After the officer was freed, investigators say the driver pointed the vehicle at the second officer and drove forward. At that point, Baylous has said, the car was a weapon, threatening the officer’s life.
The second officer shot multiple times at the car, with at least one shot striking the driver. The car continued onto the outer road circling the mall lot. Eventually, it stopped in the Toys “R” Us parking lot.
The Ragalyis then reportedly fled. Pfalzgraf was found in the car and pronounced dead at the scene.
Martin said a witness’ statement that a police car employed a pit maneuver- striking the suspect car to cause it to spin out of control- was inaccurate.
“That did not happen,” he said.
Multiple area law enforcement agencies were participating in the Homeland Security training, but not the State Police, who were tasked with investigating the incident.
Martin said everything he’s heard from the investigation so far leaves him confident his officers acted appropriately.
“Ultimately the goal of the police officer is to stop the threat or apprehend the person that’s committed a crime,” Martin said. “I’m glad they chose to take action. It’s unfortunate it turned out the way it did.”
The department will still conduct its own internal investigation of the matter.
The Ragalyis turned themselves in to Parkersburg Police Tuesday and were released pending a decision by Wood County Prosecutor Jason Wharton on whether felony or misdemeanor charges would be filed.
Neither Pfalzgraf nor the Ragalyis had prior criminal records in Wood County Magistrate Court; however, both the Ragalyis have faced charges in Washington County.
John Ragalyi has been in the Washington County Jail multiple times, Sheriff Larry Mincks said. In 2007 he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor theft charge and was sentenced to 10 days in jail. In 2008, he was charged with drug trafficking but those counts were subsequently dismissed. He’s also been taken to the jail four times on probation violations.
Jenna Ragalyi has a misdemeanor assault conviction on her record.