Trooper Philip S. Kesner

Trooper Philip S. Kesner

West Virginia State Police, West Virginia

End of Watch Wednesday, November 7, 1979

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Philip S. Kesner

Trooper Philip Kesner was shot and killed during a prison break from the West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville, West Virginia.

Trooper Kesner, who was off duty, was driving past the prison with his wife at the same time that 15 prisoners escaped from the prison. Trooper Kesner was pulled from his car by some of the prisoners and shot as he attempted to take action. Although mortally wounded, Trooper Kesner was able to return fire at the fleeing suspects.

The suspect who shot Trooper Kesner was in jail for the murder of Sergeant David Lilly, of the Beckley Police Department, on May 12, 1975. The suspect shot Trooper Kesner with a service weapon stolen from one of the prison guards during the escape.

The man, now 36, was placed on the FBIs 10 most wanted list. He remained on the run for two years. In 1980 he broke into a home in Virginia and shot at the owner as she arrived home. On March 12, 1981, he murdered a man in Scottsdale, Arizona, during a burglary of his home. The suspect was finally arrested on June 8, 1981, in New York City following a shootout with federal agents. He was returned to West Virginia to complete several life sentences. As of August 30, 2019, he was in Mount Olive Prison. If he is ever released, he faces a death sentence in Arizona. He was convicted there of burglary, first-degree murder and sentenced to death on February 10, 1984. As of June 15, 2023, the man, now 80, is in the Mount Olive Correctional Complex.

Trooper Kesner had served with the West Virginia State Police for three years. He was survived by his wife.


  • Age 23
  • Tour 3 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Handgun; .380 caliber
  • Offender Sentenced to life

convicted felon, escapee, off duty

Most Recent Reflection

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I was a West Virginia resident on active duty stationed in Maryland. I remember this trooper because he pulled me and my friends over on evening for speeding and only gave me a warning. We became friends after that and I was furious after hearing this from my dad. The men responsible should have had the death penalty.

Bruce M Crow HM1/USN/Retired

January 14, 2024

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