TAYLORVILLE, W.Va. -- Hundreds poured into the gymnasium at Mingo Central High School to pay their respects to a lawman who always wanted to be the sheriff, and held the title for only 93 days before he was shot dead while on duty.
Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury said he'd spoken to Sheriff Eugene Crum, 59, nearly every day for the last 30 years and that in every conversation the topic of his wife Rosie and family came up without fail.
More than 800 friends, family members and county residents listened as they fanned themselves Sunday afternoon in the school gymnasium. About 300 of those gathered were law enforcement officers from around the state and neighboring states.
His last conversation with him, minutes before Crum was gunned down in his cruiser last Wednesday afternoon in downtown Williamson, touched on the threats the sheriff had been receiving but also his intentions to keep fighting against the drugs that had been invading his community.
"His last conversation with me, just a few minutes before he died, and he talked about the circumstances and the alternatives of life," Thornsbury told those that gathered at the school. "He looked at me and said 'I'm fighting back. I'm fighting the good fight.'
"Heroes -- their memory never dies and he's mine so he'll never die in my eyes."
Crum was shot and killed in his cruiser Wednesday afternoon. He commonly took his lunch and sat in the vehicle, parked on Third Avenue to watch over a building where a pill mill had been operating at one point, fearing that the illegal operation would pick back up.
The suspect, Tennis Maynard, 37, fled after the sheriff was shot. After a short pursuit with a Mingo deputy, the suspect crashed into a bridge. State Police Sgt. Michael Baylous said Maynard got out of the vehicle with a Glock .40 caliber handgun and pointed it at the deputy, who fired, wounding the man.
No motive behind the shooting has been released but Maynard's father said his son was mentally unstable and likely did not target the sheriff. Tennis Maynard was injured an accident at an Alabama coal mine, where he also was exposed to harmful chemicals.
Serving as a lieutenant with the Matewan police and then chief of police in Delbarton, Crum switched gears and ran for county magistrate, a position he held for more than a decade. Thornsbury appointed him chief magistrate and swore him into service in a bowling alley, the judge recalled.