Security Again in Focus After 2nd Vehicle Mars W. Va. Capitol Complex

May 21, 2007

The second vehicle crash on the pedestrian-only campus of the West Virginia Capitol Complex is probably not going to prove as costly to repair as one that occurred in March, state officials said.

Robert Davis, 76, apparently steered his Plymouth Valiant onto a wide sidewalk leading into the complex from Greenbrier Street on May 16. He clipped several benches around the previously damaged Veterans Memorial before ending up partly atop a concrete planter, Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety spokesman Joe Thornton said.

Davis was taken to Charleston Area Medical Center. A hospital spokeswoman said Davis asked that his condition not be released.

The incident comes less than two months after Howard Roland Gentry, 59, barreled his two-door sports coupe around the campus before squeezing through a pair of stone columns on the Veterans Memorial.

Gentry faces a felony destruction of property charge from the March 25 incident. But Gentry’s lawyer has suggested that the Roane County man was suffering from a “significant medical condition” that evening.

Thornton said police were still weighing whether to file charges against Davis.

“I do think it was an accident. I think that’s how it’s going to end up,” Thornton said.

The damage from Davis’s accident was “very minimal,” Administration Department spokeswoman Diane Holley said. Some nicks in the benches can be easily repaired and the planter appears undamaged.

By contrast, it will cost at least $30,000 to repair concrete barriers around the war memorial that were damaged in March, but the total tally could jump as high was $500,000. The state needs to replace a cracked black granite tablet bearing the names of the war dead, but may have to replace all of them if it can’t match the damaged panel.

Thornton noted that the state has started spending $1 million in recently obtained federal homeland security grants on security at the Capitol Complex. He said the two incidents won’t result in turning the complex into a fortified campus.

“I don’t think there’s a need for that,” he said. “We want to keep the campus accessible and the beauty of the campus intact.”

The Veteran’s Memorial will be open for Memorial Day, though two of its four footbridges remain roped off from the March incident, Holley said.

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