4-4-13 Mingo County sheriff shot in cruiser

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WILLIAMSON — A Mingo County sheriff was fatally shot Wednesday in the spot where he usually parked his car for lunch. State Police said the suspect was in a hospital with gunshot wounds inflicted by a deputy who chased him.

Sheriff Eugene Crum died of his wounds, but State Police Capt. David Nelson didn’t say how many times he was shot or offer many other details as two dozen law enforcement officers gathered around him on the courthouse steps.

The suspect, 37-year-old Tennis Melvin Maynard, was being treated at a hospital in Huntington late Wednesday, according to media sources.

Nelson said Maynard was fleeing from a deputy and crashed his car into a bridge in nearby Delbarton. Maynard got out of the vehicle and pulled a gun on the deputy, who fired in self-defense, he said.

Crum was elected last year and had just taken office in January, but he’d already helped indict dozens of suspected drug dealers through the county’s new Operation Zero Tolerance.

It’s unclear whether that crusade was related to his death, but residents and county officials suspect as much.

“We were and we are proud of him and his service,” County Commission President John Mark Hubbard said. “To say Eugene will be missed is a vast understatement.”

The county courthouse was evacuated and closed after the shooting. Streets into the city were temporarily blocked off and officers held white sheets around the crime scene, Crum’s body further shielded by two vehicles.

Later, a bouquet of red roses with a red ribbon was fastened to a guardrail above the parking lot.

Delegate Harry Keith White, who campaigned with Crum last year, said his friend was killed in the same place where he parked his car most days to eat lunch, near the site of a former pharmacy known for illegally distributing pills. He wanted to be certain the “pill mill” remained closed.

“I think anybody you ask would tell you he was a great guy, always with a positive attitude, always trying to help people,” White said. “It’s just a sad, sad day for Mingo County and the state of West Virginia.”

Operation Zero Tolerance was Crum’s way to make good on a campaign pledge, White said.

State, federal and local authorities have all tried to crack down on West Virginia’s drug problem, which centers on the illegal sale of prescription drugs in the southern counties. Mingo County is in the southwest corner of West Virginia, on the border with Kentucky.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says West Virginia has the second-highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation. And in February, federal officials said they had prosecuted more than 200 pill dealers in the past two years.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin called Crum’s killing “shocking” and pledged the assistance of his office and whatever other federal agencies are needed.

U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, the Democrat whose district includes Mingo County, said the sheriff, who was married with two children, was new to his job but not the cause of justice.

“Every law-abiding citizen demands justice for this tragedy that has shaken our sense of decency, but not our resolve, to maintain law and order,” he said.

Crum had been a magistrate for 12 years and had previously served as police chief in Delbarton. He won the primarily handily and ran unopposed in the general election in the fall, according to media sources.

Delegate Justin Marcum, D-Mingo and an assistant county prosecutor, called Crum “a true friend to the county.”

Williamson, a town of about 3,200, sits along the Tug Fork River in a part of the state long associated with violence.

Mingo and neighboring McDowell County are home to the legendary blood feud between the Hatfield family of West Virginia and the McCoy family of Kentucky, a conflict dating to the Civil War.

Crum’s county was dubbed “Bloody Mingo” during the early 20th century mine wars, when unionizing miners battled Baldwin-Felts security agents hired by the coal operators.

In May 1920, after evicting striking miners in Red Jacket, some of the Baldwin-Felts men tried to board a train in nearby Matewan but were confronted by the mayor and the chief of police, Sid Hatfield, a former miner, who had family ties to the Hatfields in the feud.

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