Law enforcement officers and emergency service personnel cover the vehicle… (Kyle Lovern / Williamson…)
Officials still don't know why a West Virginia sheriff was shot and killed Wednesday, but one thing was certain: It's been a notably deadly year for leaders in the criminal justice system in the U.S.
Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum was parked alongside a road in the county seat of Williamson, which abuts the Kentucky border, when a man ran up to his vehicle, shot him and fled, officials said.
One of Crum's deputies chased down a suspect, identified as Tennis Melvin Maynard, 37, and shot Maynard multiple times when he crashed his car and got out wielding a Glock .40-caliber pistol, officials said. Maynard gave "vague" statements to officials before he was taken to a hospital, where he was expected to live, West Virginia State Police spokesman Michael Baylous told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday.
The attack followed a series of high-profile attacks on law-enforcement leaders across the country, coming less than a week after a district attorney and his wife were shot and killed in Kaufman County, Texas. On Thursday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called the killings "attacks on the rule of law."
The Kaufman County attack followed the slaying of a Kaufman County assistant district attorney in January, the slaying of Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements on March 19, and Christopher Dorner's grudge-driven rampage against Los Angeles-area law enforcement in February, which left four dead.
None of these attacks have been formally connected to others. But an expert who tracks targeted attacks against law enforcement told the Los Angeles Times this week that the first three years of the 2010s were on a record pace for targeted attacks on officials in the criminal justice system.
Glenn McGovern, a senior investigator at Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office in California, has been working on a book about targeted attacks on law enforcement officials. He said there were 73 attempted attacks on officers, prosecutors and judges documented between 1950 and 2012, with 41 attacks resulting in officials' deaths.
But in the first three years of the 2010s, McGovern said, there were 15 targeted attacks on officials, far outpacing the six that occurred in the same time frame in the 2000s. (McGovern spoke Monday, before the West Virginia attack.)
“Revenge is the predominant motive," McGovern said, followed by efforts to derail a criminal case. Most of the attacks were carried out by lone gunmen, but the suspects ran the gamut, from aggrieved former law enforcement officers to the mentally ill, McGovern said.
The suspect in the attack in West Virginia, Maynard, was mentally "off" and "should have been in a hospital," his father told the Associated Press. "He would have probably shot anybody, the first one he come to, you know what I'm saying?" said Maynard's father, whose first name was not given.
The West Virginia State Police said the younger Maynard was "known to law enforcement" from previous encounters with police, spokesman Baylous told The Times. He said state closed-record laws prohibited him from elaborating.
Baylous said that officials had a warrant for Maynard on attempted murder of the deputy who shot him, and that Williamson police would handle the investigation of Crum's slaying.
Crum, who had been in office for only three months, was noted for his efforts to battle drug trafficking in the county. A county magistrate who replaced Crum, Dallas Toler, told the AP that local officials had gotten threats for their drug-enforcement work.
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