Sheriff slain in W.Va. waged war against drugs

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WILLIAMSON, W.Va. (AP) — Just months before being gunned down, Sheriff Eugene Crum made good on a campaign promise to do what many in law enforcement have attempted in southern West Virginia — crack down on drugs, especially the illegal sale of prescription pills.

In three months and two days on the job, he’d already helped indict dozens of suspected drug dealers through Mingo County’s new Operation Zero Tolerance.

Authorities haven’t said whether that work was related to his shooting death at midday on a street in the small town of Williamson on Wednesday, but residents and county officials suspect it.

Crum’s team has targeted people “who spread the disease of addiction among our residents,” said County Commission President John Mark Hubbard.

Resident Jerry Cline stood near the site of the slaying hours later, the drug crackdown clearly at the forefront of his thoughts.

“He told them right before he got in as sheriff, ‘If you’re dealing drugs, I’m coming after you. I’m cleaning this town up,’” Cline said. “He got out just to do one thing, and that’s to clean this town up. That’s all that man tried to do.”

Authorities were mum about a possible connection between Crum and the suspect, 37-year-old Tennis Melvin Maynard, who was shot and wounded by a Mingo deputy following a chase and after state police said he pulled a weapon.

State Police charged Maynard with attempted murder for allegedly pulling the gun on the deputy, said Sgt. Michael Baylous. Charges for the slaying of Crum will be filed separately by the Williamson Police Department, Baylous said.

State Police Capt. David Nelson said Maynard was being treated late Wednesday night at Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington but did not comment on his condition. Hospital spokesman Charles Shumaker refused to comment or confirm whether Maynard was a patient today, citing federal privacy laws.

The suspect’s father, Melvin Maynard, told WSAZ-TV that his son developed mental health problems after a work-related accident in Alabama, where he was exposed to dangerous chemicals. The elder Maynard said he never imagined his son was capable of something violent and is heartbroken for the sheriff’s family.

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