Local News

Search Continues for Suspect in Murder of Rich Square Police Chief

Posted July 16, 2000

— More than 150 police officers spent Monday in Northampton County, searching for the person who gunned down Rich Square's police chief.

Chief Joseph White, 61, was shot Sunday afternoon, apparently during a traffic stop near downtown Rich Square.

Late Monday, police recovered the casing from the single bullet that killed White. They plan tests to determine if the bullet came from the chief's own .45-caliber pistol, which is missing.

As investigators spent Monday looking for evidence, friends and family filled White's home, comforting the chief's widow. His three adult daughters were on their way home.

White lived in Woodland, a small community located about six miles from Rich Square. He also served as a volunteer firefighter. White's colleagues at the fire department last saw him Friday night as they planned for a Saturday fundraiser.

"Whatever he said, you could take to heart," White's friend and fellow firefighter Al Morris said. "If he told you he'd be there, he'd be there."

Using several descriptions of a man people saw at the crime scene, Northampton County Sheriff Wardie Vincent released a composite sketch of the suspect Monday evening.

Police describe the suspect as a black male in his mid-20s. He may be about 6 feet tall, weighing 180 to 200 pounds. He was last seen wearing a dark shirt and dark shorts.

Vincent says his department is following every lead, and everyone is coming together to help.

"No agency wants to lose and officer," Vincent said. "Fortunately, with the assistance of other agencies, we'll continue to function and work through this."

White was killed a few minutes past 4 p.m. in the parking lot of the town's dialysis center. White radioed the dispatcher that the door to the building was open.

The chief was one of Rich Square's five police officers, two of whom work full-time. White worked in law enforcement for 30 years, taking over as the town's police chief 18 months ago.

With dogs and roadblocks surrounding them, the people in Rich Square remembered White fondly. Many tied white ribbons to doors and utility poles to honor his memory.

"He was always there if you called him," shop owner Bob Lassiter said. "You'd see him walking the streets. He'd come by two or three times a week, just to talk."

Store owner Theresa Vick said, "He was a small-town police officer. He just cared about the town."

White's murder fell within 24 hours of another sad anniversary. Three years ago Monday, Sharpsburg Police Chief Wayne Hathaway wasmurderedby Abner Nicholson, who was sentenced last year to die for the killing.

The Hathaway family stopped by the White family's house Monday night.

Officers across the state are on the lookout for the suspect. Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the Northampton County Sheriff's Office at252-534-2611.

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