Local law enforcement officials shaken by string of shootings
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Local law enforcement officials are no strangers to death threats, but a recent string of killings across the country, including the shooting of Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum on Wednesday, left many feeling shaken.
Kim Aaron, a longtime Kanawha magistrate, said through tears that she doesn't feel safe.
"He was my friend," she said. "Just a great, great person. We lost one of the good guys today.
"Unbelievable. Just unbelievable."
She had heard of the shootings and attacks on public officials around the country -- like the murder of Texas District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, over the weekend.
But she said the most recent act struck too close to home.
"Nobody's safe," she said. "None of us. I think every public official ought to take a long, hard look at their safety."
Rudi Raynes Kidder, executive director of the West Virginia Sheriff's Association, said members were stunned and devastated.
"It's a pretty sad state of the world when someone can walk up and shoot the sheriff," Kidder said. "We're praying for his family and everyone at the scene, and everyone who wears a uniform.
"It's unthinkable, especially him being a newly elected, first-term sheriff. You put on that uniform you think you're untouchable."
Kanawha Prosecutor Mark Plants expressed disbelief.
"I'm just very saddened," he said of what appeared to be a targeted attack. "It's a tragedy. This kicks things up a notch.
"We have some great law enforcement officers," he said. "Unfortunately we have some very dangerous people out there as well."
Death threats often come with the job of prosecutor, he said.
"I've had numerous death threats against myself and other prosecutors in my office," he said. "And I tell them what we would tell any citizen -- vigilantly protect yourself and your family.
"For some people that's buying a gun," Plants said. "For some it's a ball bat. Take typical safety measures-security system and every waking minute being very conscious of the potential dangers out there."
Kanawha County Sheriff John Rutherford said he didn't know Crum, but all officers consider themselves family.
"Our first thoughts are with him and his family," Rutherford said. "But we're all a family, not just us but all law enforcement across the state."
Rutherford said Crum's shooting, following news of other shootings of officials in Texas and Colorado, sends a strong message.
"Well, it's a societal problem," he said. "It's around the country, and we have these problems in West Virginia.
"In the last five years we've had officers involved in shootings," the sheriff said. "Everybody has to understand it's a different world we live in now. And there are threats against law enforcement."
Rutherford said his department would do nothing different now, but continue to emphasize training and equipment.
"In Kanawha County we have a county commission that works well with the sheriff's office," he said. "Anything we suggest to protect our deputies, they follow our advice.
"I wouldn't say I'm nervous," Rutherford said. "But every day you worry about the deputies and officers trying to do their jobs. Calls can turn into very dangerous situations."
U.S. District Attorney Booth Goodwin issued a statement after the murder Wednesday.
"It's shocking any time a law enforcement officer is killed. I've spoken to Colonel Smithers and the West Virginia State Police will be leading the investigation into the matter.
"I've pledged the assistance of my office and other federal investigative agencies as such assistance is needed," Goodwin said.
Last month, Goodwin's office announced that the woman connected with the pill mill Crum was watching pleaded guilty. Myra Miller, 49, of Williamson was the office manager for Dr. William f. Ryckman of Pennsylvania, who was writing illegal prescriptions for hydrocodone and Xanax.
On March 19, Goodwin said, "This pill mill did enormous harm across a wide swath of our state and beyond. Every time we put a law-breaking doctor or clinic out of business, it's a big step toward getting this problem under control."
The doctor was sentenced a year ago to six months in prison followed by one year of probation. Miller faces up to four years in prison and a $250,000 fine when sentenced on June 18.
Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at email@example.com or 304-348-4832.