Search on for missing cop

on 09-14-2009 20:39

By JOSEPH FITZGERALD

GLOCESTER — The search for a missing off-duty Glocester police officer entered its third full day today after more than 300 law enforcement personnel were unable to turn up any trace of the officer during a massive search Monday of the Pulaski Memorial Recreational Area and adjacent George Washington management area.

After withholding his name on Sunday, state police yesterday identified the officer as Michael E. Hopton, 47, a 20-year member of the Smithfield Police Department who joined the Glocester police force two years ago. The father of two is the school resource officer at Ponaganset High School.
State police continue to treat Hopton's mysterious disappearance as a missing-persons case and the search for the officer as a “search and rescue” operation. Police say they do not suspect foul play, but did say that Hopton's service weapon and his ID are missing.
Yesterday’s search, which began just after 7 a.m., was suspended at dusk and expected to resume early this morning.
The search for Hopton began Sunday after he failed to show up for his shift Saturday night at the Glocester police station, where he worked the overnight shift from midnight to 8 a.m. He was last seen by his family on Saturday morning.
Hopton is known to run in the woods at the Pulaski Memorial Recreational Area. When police intially searched the park on Sunday, they found his personal car, but not the officer. State police were called in to assist in the investigation on Sunday, which included a search team of about 100 law enforcement personnel. The ground and air search, assisted by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, was suspended around midnight and then resumed early Monday morning.
A field command center was set up at the George Washington Management Area Headquarters on Putnam Pike. The George Washington Management Area was the focus of much of yesterday's search because of reports that Hopton may have been seen in that area some time on Saturday.
The 100-acre Pulaski Park is within the 4,000-acre George Washington Management Area in the Chepachet section of Glocester, near the Connecticut border.
“We tried to find him after we learned that he left his house early yesterday in the day and we just started to look for him,” said Glocester Police Chief Jamie Hainsworth. “This (Pulaski Park) is a normal place for him to be. He does a lot of running and biking here. This is an area where it is common for him to come to during the day.”
Rhode Island State Police Lt. Darren Delaney said the State Police search and rescue team was activated at 7 o'clock yesterday morning. Yesterday's search included more than 300 law enforcement personnel, including police officers, firefighters and other emergency personnel from as far away as Coventry, North Kingstown and Westerly.
“A lot of these guys are here on their own time and on their days off and using their own equipment,” said Delaney.
Taking part in the search were members of the Rhode Island State Police, Rhode Island Emergency Management, Rhode Island Environmental Police, Rhode Island Sheriff's Department, North Kingstown K9 and Search Dogs Northeast. Search teams also included members of several nearby police departments including Burrillville, Smithfield, Johnston, Woonsocket, Coventry and Westerly. Several officers used ATVs and canine units to try and locate the officer, but to no avail.
Hainsworth says Pulaski Park itself comprises more than 1,000 acres.
“There's a lot of dense woods and plenty of cover,” he said.
The campground at the George Washington Management Area has been closed until the search operation is over.

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