A former South Carolina police officer killed during a Tuesday traffic stop in Montana is being remembered here as reliable officer with a gift for gab and a sense of humor.
A paint can that Mason Moore kept under the seat of his Lexington County sheriff’s cruiser once exploded, covering him in blue paint, “We called him Papa Smurf for a while,” Maj. TJ Geary of the University of South Carolina Police Department recalled Wednesday of his first partner.
Moore, a 42-year-old Broadwater County, Montana, deputy, was found shot to death about 3 a.m. near Three Forks in the southwestern part of the state, said Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin.
Moore had stopped a sport utility vehicle, according to media reports from various Montana county and state law enforcement agencies. His body was found on the roadside and the SUV was identified using images captured from the camera on his dashboard.
Moore, who had a wife, Jodi, twin sons and a younger daughter, told dispatchers that he was stopping the SUV. Dispatchers did not hear back from him after Moore radioed that communication.
State and local police there later got into a gunfight with the suspects, a father and son, after a 140-mile chase.
Moore, a Manning High School graduate, was a straight arrow. He did his job without drama or fanfare, but with humor, Geary and two of his former bosses said Wednesday.
“I know him as Mr. Reliable,” said Geary, who worked with Moore between 2003 and 2007 in Lexington County when they were road deputies. “I would stop a car and he would sort of materialize. He was always dependable.”
Maj. Donnie Drose of the Clarendon County Sheriff’s Department where Moore worked about four years before leaving in September 2011 for Montana, said, “He was tactically sound. He was always aware of his surroundings.
“If he had had a chance, he would have fought with all he had,” Drose said of the Montana traffic stop.
Mike Gordon was Moore’s regional commander when Moore worked in Lexington County. Gordon, then a captain, recalled that Moore was good with words.
“He actually talked a guy down and talked him into giving himself up before we could get there,” Gordon said of a standoff in Chapin that grew from a domestic dispute.
“You gave him a mission and he was going to see it through,” Gordon said. “He wanted to learn so bad ... because he knew he was going to be a cop for the rest of his life.”
Geary learned of Moore’s death through an alert from Officer Down Memorial, which tracks officer-involved shootings. Despite the tragic news, Geary still recalls the lighter moments.
While Moore was under anesthesia for the removal of his wisdom teeth, he left Geary a voicemail. “It was one of those, ‘I love you man ... mushy kind of things.”
Moore couldn’t remember making the call, so Geary played it back in front of his fellow deputies.
After graduating in 1994 from Manning High School in Clarendon County’s county seat, Moore received a degree in criminal justice from Western Carolina University in 1998.
His first job as an officer was with the University of South Carolina between August 1998 and July of 2002, according to a USC spokesman and state police academy records.
The white 1998 Chevrolet Suburban involved in Moore’s death was spotted about 80 miles from where his body was discovered. the passenger, Marshall Barrus, fired a semi-automatic .308-caliber rifle through the SUV's missing back window, said Butte-Silver Bow County Sheriff Ed Lester
Efforts to stop the SUV included placing spikes on the road. But the SUV drove over the spikes and continued for some 30 miles on Interstate 90. The vehicle traveled only on the wheel rims until it stopped east of Missoula, Mont., media reports indicate.
Both suspects were firing from the SUV at deputies near the end of the chase, Lester said.
Passenger Marshall Barrus, 38, and his father, 61-year-old Lloyd Barrus, the driver, were arrested.
A Gofundme account has been established to help the Moore family. As of midafternoon Wednesday, more than $15,000 had been pledged.
▪ The account reads: “The Bridge church in Belgrade is raising funds for Jodi Moore and her 3 children who have tragically lost their husband and father, deputy Mason Moore.”
▪ For more information or to donate go to Gofundme.com