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Hero Down: Nicholas County Sheriff’s Deputy Thomas Baker Murdered By Gunmen

Birch River, WV – Nicholas County Sheriff’s Office (NCSO) Deputy Thomas Baker was murdered in the line of duty on June 3 while responding to a domestic disturbance call.

The incident occurred in the area of Birch River at approximately 5 p.m. on Friday night, WDTV reported.

Deputy Baker, 49, responded to the scene with fellow NCSO Corporal J. Ellison and made contact with two individuals outside a camper, Nicholas County Sheriff William Nunley said the following morning.

The suspects, 36-year-old Ritchie Holcomb and 28-year-old Tyler Kelly, initially came out of the camper to speak with the deputies, but became agitated at some point during the encounter, Sheriff Nunley told WDTV.

The suspects ran back into the camper, so the deputies chased after them.

One of the deputies fired a Taser at the suspects just before Kelly and Holcomb opened fire on them, according to police.

The deputies backed out of the camper as the suspects continued shooting at them, Sheriff Nunley told WDTV.

Deputy Baker was shot in the back as he tried to get to cover, and Cpl. Ellison was shot in the leg, WSAZ reported.

The wounded deputies were able to return fire, killing Holcomb, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Kelly barricaded himself in the camper after the shootout and was ultimately apprehended by additional officers.

Cpl. Ellison was rushed to a local hospital and has since been released to continue his recovery at home, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia Will Thompson said in a press release on Saturday.

Deputy Baker, an 18-year law enforcement veteran, succumbed to his wounds.

“This tragedy is a stark reminder of the sacrifices made by our law enforcement officers in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others,” Thompson said. “We mourn with Deputy Baker’s loved ones, our fellow law enforcement partners, the Nicholas County community and all of West Virginia. We are resolved that Deputy Baker’s service and selfless dedication will be forever remembered.”

Kelly is being held without bond on a first-degree murder charge, WDTV reported.

The West Virginia State Police are handling the ongoing investigation into the deadly shooting, according to WSAZ.

Deputy Baker served with the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office, the Cowen Police Department, and the Summersville Police Department prior to joining the NCSO, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Jennifer Clodfelter, a retired local firefighter who went to high school with the slain deputy, said his tragic death has impacted the entire community, WCHS reported.

“It didn’t matter what the situation was. He was always so calm and gentle and kind,” Clodfelter said.

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said Deputy Baker and his fellow law enforcement officers will be remembered for their dedication and the sacrifices they make to keep their communities safe.

“Our First Responders are heroes, they run to the fire to keep us safe and we should never forget their sacrifice,” Justice said in a Facebook post on Friday night. “Especially in moments like these, all of us should realize the obvious — just how needed our law enforcement heroes are. We should have this exact same thought every day because all of us depend on and need these heroes every moment of every day.”

Deputy Baker leaves behind his wife and two children, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

He will be laid to rest on June 8, WCHS reported.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Nicholas County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Thomas Baker, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.

Deputy Thomas Baker, your life mattered.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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