GREEN VALLEY — Click here for exclusive video eyewitness account:
Road rage with gunfire between suspected drug dealers erupted Thursday afternoon on Airport Road, leaving at least two injured, three detained, and one on the run late Thursday evening.
The incident began to unfold at about 1:45 p.m., starting from a residence not far from the High Country Bar, just west of the intersection of Route 123 and the Mercer County Airport access road. A Mercer County resident traveling east on Route 123, slowed down to allow a maroon Dodge Stratus enter the highway.
“At first, it looked like someone was trying to get into the car, but the door was locked,” Sean Fuda, an eyewitness said. “The Stratus pulled out in front of me, and moments later, a silver Cadillac pulled out behind me. The Stratus wasn’t going too fast at the time, but after we started down the hill, it sped up, passed me and the silver Cadillac got behind the Stratus.”
According to Fuda, the Cadillac struck the Stratus in the rear, prompting the Stratus to accelerate down the hill. He said that the Cadillac also increased his speed, and struck the Stratus again in the rear. On the second contact, the impact knocked the rear bumper off of the Stratus and spun the vehicle around 180 degrees. The Stratus traveled off the road backwards, partially re-entered the road, and came to a stop in a ditch on the north side of Route 123, almost directly across from the Airport Tavern, a bar that is now closed, but was formerly called “Club Blue.”
By the time Fuda arrived at the crash site, the Cadillac was already well on its way to Kee Dam. “There were two guys laying in the road,” he said. “I thought they were both dead.”
Fuda said that he drove past the crash scene until he found a place to pull off the road, but when he got back to the scene, three occupants of the Stratus had walked up a path between a wooden fence outside the old tavern and a stand of pine trees.
“The silver Cadillac was mostly in my lane when it passed me going the other way,” another witness who did not identify himself said. “When I came up, the three dudes who were in the Dodge Stratus were headed toward the woods, but the fellow who lives in the house up there came out and they stopped.
“A few minutes later, a green Ford Explorer with an Eddie Bauer package came up and stopped in the road and the three guys came back out of the woods to get in,” the other eye witness said. “I went over to try to write the license number down, but the dude who was driving got out, went back and tore the license plate off. They took off in the same direction the Cadillac had gone.”
Several witnesses gathered near the crash scene before law enforcement could arrive. A few men looked inside the crashed Stratus to see if there were any others inside. Deputy E.P. Parks of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department conducted a traffic stop of the green Explorer on Maple Acres Road near the Green Valley-Glenwood Public Service District, and detained the six occupants, including two who were apparently injured in the crash.
None of the occupants had been shot, said Lt. Joe Parks of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department.
Deputy D.A. Furches of the Mercer County Sheriffs Department was the first law enforcement officer to arrive at the scene of the crash. A Ruger, 9mm handgun with an extended clip was in plain view on the side of the road, as well as 8 or more spent 9mm shell casings and a half-dozen or more live 9 mm rounds. Furches also followed a blood trail between the wall of the bar and the pine tree stand, but was called away from the crash scene when the silver Cadillac was spotted about 2 miles away, stuck on an old logging road, approximately 60 yards from Route 123, north of the road and across from the boat dock at Kee Dam.
A second handgun was later found behind Swamp Fox Motor Sports between Route 460 and Maple Acres Road in Green Valley, Lt. Parks said. A box for a third weapon was discovered inside the Explorer.
Deputy J.D. Ellison and Detective L.B. Murphy, both of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department began processing the crash scene at the former tavern. Additional law enforcement officers from the West Virginia State Police, the Southern Regional Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, the West Virginia Forestry Department Conservation Officers and the Bluefield Police Department arrived on scene.
Furches and his K-9 Maggie as well as Sgt. Joe Pack of the West Virginia State Police, his K-9 along with other officers searched the mountain without success. “We went up on Hurricane Ridge in case the dogs flushed him out, but he didn’t come through,” Mercer County Sheriff D.B. “Don” Meadows said.
“We know his identity, but we aren’t releasing it now,” Det. Murphy said. “The people involved are known drug dealers. We have deputies at the hospital, but at this point, we have not been able to talk with the victims yet. I don’t know the extent of any of the injuries, and at this time, I don’t know who was shooting.”
One man, Dante Baker, 20, of Bluefield was arrested on a parole violation, Lt. Parks said. Baker was arrested in August 2010 after firing a shot inside the Mercer Mall. One other man was released after being questioned.
Jim Browning of Browning Wrecker Service worked the vehicle out of the logging road, and towed both vehicles from the scene.
Senior Reporter Greg Jordan and reporter Kate Coil contributed to this story.