WILLIAMSON, W.Va. — Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum was shot at point blank range while sitting in his official vehicle in a parking lot at the corner of Third Avenue and Harvey Street Wednesday shortly after noon, leaving the entire Tug Valley area in shock.
Eyewitnesses, whose names will not be disclosed for their safety, told the Williamson Daily News that a man who has been identified as Tennis Maynard, of Ragland, walked up to the sheriff’s SUV and at point blank range, shot Crum in the forehead and temple region, killing him instantly.
According to MCSD Sgt. Joe Smith, a compact .40 caliber glock handgun was used in the shooting.
One witness said he was going to ram the gold colored Ford Ranger the alleged murderer was fleeing the scene in, but said Maynard looked him straight in the face and shook his finger in a “don’t do that” motion, and said at that time, he was afraid of being shot and chose to wait at the scene to give a description after calling 911.
In a matter of moments, police from all agencies swarmed to the scene and began the heart-breaking task of investigating one of their own. An all-points bulletin was issued for the shooter and in a short time period, he was located in Delbarton and shot and seriously injured by law enforcement after pulling a gun on them, according to Mingo County Sheriff’s Department Corporal N. Mines.
The scene in Williamson was one that came straight out of a nightmare. You could hear crying, screaming and shouts of anger as the family, friends and co-workers strived to deal with the loss of one of their finest.
‘He’s been in office for four months, and has done more than any sheriff we’ve had serve in that capacity in the last thirty years,” stated Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury. “He was determined to put a stop to the drug trafficking in this county and worked day and night, making arrests and obtaining indictments since before he even took office, while he was serving as our Drug Task Force Commander.
“He was passionate, committed and on a mission. He made a promise to the citizens of this county that he would concentrate on drugs and that’s exactly what he did. He lost his life today while doing his job.
“He was more than a sheriff…he was my friend. He was a father, a husband and a grandfather. Nothing was more important to Eugene than his wife Rosie and his kids.”
Drug Task Force Commander C.D. Rockel, who also serves as the Williamson Police Chief, is lead investigator and had to push back his feelings of grief at the loss of his friend and fellow lawman to do his official job.
“Eugene was one of the best men I’ve ever known. This doesn’t feel real,” said Rockel.
Family members of Crum arrived at the scene and had to receive treatment from EMS on scene, after his brother-in-law, Rusty Martin nearly collapsed after being told the news.
“Please God, not Eugene! Don’t let this be true!” said Martin, with a voice choked with tears.
“I can’t believe this, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know which way to turn or how to deal with this,” said Linette Morrison, Crum’s Administrative Assistant who is also a close family friend. “He was the love of Rosie’s life. They’ve been together forever. This will devastate her; I’m not sure how she’ll get through it.”
Joining Judge Thornsbury at the scene were county commissioners, county officials, law enforcement from both sides of the Tug River and many local residents who knew and loved Sheriff Crum. They stood in disbelief.
“Eugene was a great man,” said Chief Magistrate Dallas Toler. “I can’t believe this has happened. When I was appointed to take his place as magistrate when he resigned to run for sheriff, he gave me direction, took me under his wings and taught me the ropes. There’s been so many occasions when I’ve called him and said ‘hey buddy, I have a question’, or that I needed help. He never one time told me he didn’t have time for me. I worked with them on the drug arrests and seen first-hand what he was doing in our county. He was my friend and I can’t imagine how we’ll get on without him.
“We are in mourning, the courthouse will remained closed until further notice,” stated Thornsbury.
Crum was pronounced dead on the scene by Mingo County Medical Examiner Mike Casey and was transported to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Charleston for autopsy. A candlelight vigil is planned for tomorrow evening at 8 p.m. on the Mingo County Court House steps, as friends, family and law enforcement gather to pay their respects.