Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

July 10, 2012

Police continue probe, await positive ID in fatal shooting

BLUEFIELD — State police are still investigating how a man stole a police cruiser, and later an officer’s firearm, before being fatally wounded.

A Bluefield Police Department cruiser was stolen by a male subject Saturday at approximately 11:45 p.m. The man had been in the custody of the Bluefield Police Department, according to First Sergeant Michael Baylous, a public information officer with the West Virginia State Police.

Baylous said a vehicle pursuit was initiated by the Bluefield Police Department and the pursuit continued for a short distance until the suspect exited the vehicle, near the intersection of U.S. Route 460 and Country Girl Road in Green Valley.  

“The suspect then ran up a hillside while being pursued by members of the Bluefield Police Department and a West Virginia state trooper,” Baylous said. “During a struggle to apprehend the suspect, he was able to gain control of one of the officer’s handguns. The suspect refused to relinquish control of the handgun and was fatally shot by the state trooper.”

The man’s identity wasn’t released Monday. Baylous said authorities are still awaiting an official confirmation of the man’s identity from the state medical examiner’s office.

The scuffle between the officer and the suspect occurred on the ground, according to Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ash.

“As I understand it, he wrecked the car at Country Girl Road, and they were trying to subdue him because he had taken off on foot,” Ash said. “I believe there were three officers there. The two city officers, and the state policeman who eventually shot him. (Patrolman) John Murray and him were engaged on the ground. At that time he got John Murray’s firearm from the holster.”

Murray was joined by Officer R.F. Gibson, also of the Bluefield Police Department, in pursuing the suspect. When the suspect ignored orders to relinquish control of the gun, he was shot and fatally wounded by the trooper, Ash said.

The suspect was initially arrested following a traffic stop on Bluefield Avenue. There were four other people in the car that the Bluefield patrolman stopped, Ash said. The suspect was arrested, handcuffed and placed in the back seat of the patrolman’s cruiser.

However, when the two city officers were interviewing the other three people in the vehicle, the suspect somehow managed to get his hands from behind him to in front of him, climbed out of the back seat and into the front seat and took off in the cruiser, Ash said.

Baylous said authorities will not release the suspect’s name until they have a positive identification from the state medical examiner’s officer.

“We just want to make sure,” Baylous said. “To me, it is more important to put out accurate information, and not information quickly.”

Baylous said a press conference may be held later today in Beckley to release additional details concerning the investigation.

 — Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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