WILLIAMSON, W.Va. -- Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum, known for cracking down on the drug trade in southern West Virginia's coalfields, was fatally shot yesterday in the spot where he usually parked his car for lunch, a state official said, and a suspect was shot by a deputy.
State police said that after a chase the man suspected of gunning down Crum pulled a weapon on a deputy, who shot him. The suspect, Tennis Melvin Maynard, 37, was taken to a hospital with gunshot wounds. His condition was unknown.
Maynard was shot by the deputy after a short pursuit in Delbarton that ended with Maynard crashing his car. The shooting was blocks from the county courthouse that was evacuated afterward.
Though there is no indication of any direct connection, Crum's killing comes on the heels of a Texas district attorney and his wife being shot to death in their home over the weekend, and just weeks after Colorado's corrections director also was gunned down at his home.
Delegate Harry Keith White, who campaigned with Crum last year, said his friend was shot to death 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.
"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.
Soon after he took office this year, Crum led a drug task force and an initiative called Operation Zero Tolerance, making 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.