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West Virginia sheriff shot dead, suspect wounded

by

By Lee Mueller

WILLIAMSON, W., Virginia (Reuters) - A drug-fighting West Virginia sheriff was shot to death as he ate lunch in his car on Wednesday and the suspected gunman was wounded and captured after a chase, police said.

Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum was at a parking lot in the city of Williamson when a man ran up and shot him, then fled in his own vehicle, Williamson Police Chief Dave Rockel said at a news conference.

Authorities identified the suspect as Tennis Melvin Maynard, 37, of Ragland, West Virginia.

Maynard fled south on U.S. Route 52 about 8 miles when his vehicle crashed into a bridge, said Captain Dave Nelson of the West Virginia State Police.

After the crash, Maynard got out of his vehicle, raised his weapon and was shot by a Mingo County sheriff's deputy, Nelson said.

Police officials did not say how seriously Maynard was injured. He was taken to a hospital in Logan, West Virginia, and then flown by helicopter to another hospital in Huntington, West Virginia, police said.

Police gave no further information about the crime, saying the incident was under investigation.

The shooting followed other recent attacks on law enforcement officials in the United States, including the killings of two prosecutors in Texas and the Colorado prisons chief.

A witness to the shooting, who did not wish to be identified, said Crum, 59, was shot at least three times through the open window of his police SUV.

"There was a muffled pop, and then two more, still muffled but louder," said the witness, who has a business in downtown Williamson. The gunman then went back to his pickup and sped off.

Williamson is a coal-mining town of about 3,000 people in southwestern West Virginia.

Crum, a former magistrate, took office as sheriff at the beginning of the year. He had launched a campaign called Zero Tolerance to clamp down on local drug trafficking, which centers on illegal prescription drugs.

Alexis Batausa, 29, who works across the street from the crime scene, told Reuters the sheriff had eaten his lunch in the parking lot at least three days a week to keep an eye on a suspected drug operation nearby.

"It's a huge shock to all of us," he said.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund said 28 officers had been killed in the line of duty in the United States since April 3, 2012, including 13 killed with firearms.

(Reporting by Lee Mueller and Ian Simpson; Editing by Daniel Trotta, Cynthia Johnston, Mary Wisniewski and Peter Cooney)

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