Junked vehicles along U.S. Route 60 in Putnam County. Photo courtesy WCHS-TV
Sometimes, the act of reporting news becomes the news. Such was the case last week when WCHS-TV reporter Bob Aaron was accosted while reporting on an announcement made by Putnam County Sheriff Bobbie Eggleton.
While videoing what appears to be abandoned or junked vehicles on Coal Mountain, off U.S. 60 for his report on Thursday, August 4th, Aaron was nearly run over by a flatbed wrecker, driven by a man who reportedly jerked the camera out of his hands, broke off the camera light and refused to return the camera until Putnam County sheriff’s deputies were called to the scene. The wrecker operator was identified as Clayton Frank Kelley. Kelley, 61, faces battery and destruction of property charges.
The incident became statewide news the next day when WV MetroNews Talkline host Hoppy Kercheval interviewed Sheriff Eggleton. Metro News advertises that its radio stations reach nearly one million listeners statewide.
Eggleton told Kercheval that he requested Aaron to do a story on the crack down on abandoned cars which he had announced in a Facebook post. Eggleton said that his efforts to persuade people to get rid of apparently abandoned cars had produced some progress, but not enough. In his post, Eggleton stated that he was going to enforce state law and crack down on junk cars littering the county’s roads and yards.
The state law to which the Sheriff referred is WV State Code §17-24A-3. The law states: “the enforcement agency may employ its own personnel, equipment and facilities or hire persons, equipment and facilities for the purpose of removing, preserving and storing abandoned motor vehicles, junked motor vehicles.” The statute defines abandoned and junked vehicles to be those which are not being stored for the purpose of using its parts on other motor vehicles owned by the owner.
Eggleton told Talkline that he does not want to take possession of anyone’s vehicle.
Aaron, for WCHS, quoted Eggleton saying, “When I put that video out, I got inundated with positives and negatives. People think I want to come in and steal their car. I don’t want to come in and steal their car. I don’t want their car at all. I want you to take care of your property.”
In addition to his positions as Putnam’s chief law enforcement officer and tax collector, Eggleton is a member of the Dilapidated & Abandoned Building Enforcement Agency (DAEA). The DAEA board is charged with investigating complaints and recommending corrective action regarding properties upon which structures are erected.