Slain W.Va. sheriff waged war against drugs

Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum, who was shot to death in Williamson, W.Va., Wednesday, April 3, 2013.

WILLIAMSON, W.Va. 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.

West Virginia State Police Capt. David Nelson said Maynard crashed into a bridge, held up a gun as he got out of the vehicle, and was shot.

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.

Tennis Melvin Maynard, suspect in the murder of Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum.
CBS/West Virginia State Police/AP

Maynard was being treated late Wednesday night at Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington.

CBS Affiliate WOWK reports that Maynard is expected to survive his injuries, according to West Virginia State Police.

Authorities told WOWK that a Glock .40 caliber pistol was recovered at the Delbarton scene. Police believe it was used in the shooting of Sheriff Crum.

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.

The Mingo County Magistrate Court Clerk's office said Maynard had no previous arrests in the county.

The West Virginia Division of Corrections and the Regional Jail and Correctional Facilities Authority also said they had no criminal records for Maynard.

At a news conference hours after the killing, officials mourned the fallen sheriff, but released few details of the shooting, which happened just blocks away from the county courthouse.

"We were and we are proud of him and his service," Commissioner Hubbard said. "To say Eugene will be missed is a vast understatement."

On Wednesday, a bouquet of red roses with a red ribbon was fastened to a guardrail above the parking lot where the shooting happened. By Thursday morning, the number of bouquets had grown to seven.