Hatchet-wielding man with small dog swings at off-duty trooper in church, VA cops say

Hayley Fowler

An off-duty trooper stopped a stranger with a hatchet from coming into a church in rural Virginia on Sunday, according to state police.

Now they need help finding the suspect.

Law enforcement are looking for a man in his 30s with long brown hair accused of swinging a hatchet at the off-duty trooper while trying to get into a church on Flatridge Road in Troutdale, about 8 miles from the North Carolina border near Grassy Creek, the Virginia State Police said in a news release posted on Facebook.

Troutdale is a small community in rural Grayson County, which is home to about 15,500 people, according to the latest U.S. Census records.

The man is roughly 5-feet-10-inches tall “and of medium build,” police said. He was last seen with a backpack and a small black collie-mix and might be with an adult woman, according to the news release.

Police described the incident as “unusual.”

According to the news release, the trooper — whose name was not released — was inside a church with about 20 people around 8:30 p.m. Sunday when someone started banging on the front doors.

He reportedly answered the door and found a man with his dog standing outside.

“The trooper asked if he could help and the man yelled back at him,” police said. “It was at this point that the trooper observed the man was holding a hatchet. As the trooper attempted to close the door, the man swung the hatchet and struck the back of the trooper’s hand.”

He got the door closed before the man could come inside, the release states, then sent churchgoers to the basement for safety.

The trooper “suffered minor scratches to his hand” but no one else was injured, according to the release.

The hatchet-wielding man left shortly thereafter and the trooper was able to escort everyone to their cars — all while the man was reportedly “yelling and howling from the wood line,” police said.

State police are still looking for the man.

Anyone with information about the man’s identity or whereabouts is asked to call the police by dialing #77 or 276-228-3131 or by emailing questions@vsp.virginia.gov.