Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

July 10, 2012

Police identify man killed in stand-off with Mercer County authorities

BECKLEY — Authorities have identified a man who was shot and killed July 7 after fleeing Bluefield police in a stolen police cruiser.

During a press conference at the West Virginia State Police Detachment in Beckley, First Sgt. Michael Baylous identified the man as Stephen Lawrence Knight Jr., 31, of Villa Rica, Ga. Baylous said in a statement obtained from a witness that Knight had said previously that he would not be arrested by police again. Knight was a convicted felon who had multiple arrests and convictions in Georgia and Florida.

Witnesses stated that Knight said he would kill himself, or do something to cause the police to kill him, if he was in danger of being apprehended.

 Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ash confirmed the identity earlier this morning of the West Virginia state trooper who fatally shot Knight during a struggle.

Trooper J.R. Coburn of the West Virginia State Police detachment in Welch shot the suspect, Ash said. Knight was arrested during a traffic stop Saturday evening, handcuffed and placed in a Bluefield Police Department cruiser, but he managed to get his hands in front of him, climbed into the vehicle’s front seat and drove away. The pursuit led to Country Girl Road off Route 460. There the suspect attempted to flee on foot and in a struggle, a Bluefield police officer lost his sidearm. Coburn shot the suspect when he refused to relinquish the weapon, according to a press release from the West Virginia State Police.

Ash said this morning that the officer who lost the handgun during the struggle Saturday was Patrolman John Murray Jr. Ash was not sure which officer had been using the cruiser that was taken.

This case is the second one involving Coburn this year, Ash said. In January, Coburn fatally shot Jackie Spalding Jr., 34, of Colorado during a stand-off with police at Woodlawn Cemetery in Bluewell. Ash said he had not yet received a report about that shooting. The case is being investigated by the West Virginia State Police.

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