As a new week begins, Mingo County Prosecutor C. Michael Sparks has said there is no evidence that the slaying of Sheriff Eugene Crum was drug-related. Sparks made the remarks to media outlets after constant stories prevailed that Crum’s tough stance against illegal drugs led to the shooting a block from the Mingo courthouse.
Multiple sources at the statehouse related that the sheriff was shot while “watching a pill mill” in operation as he ate his lunch in a cruiser. That was the constant story all afternoon after news of the shooting reached Charleston.
As former Kanawha County Chief Deputy Larry Harold often told me, “things are never as they appear from first reports from the battlefield.” In this case, it appears Harold was right, as usual.
While the event is a tragedy of monumental proportions no matter why it happened, saying the shooting was drug-related added a mythological twist to a horrid story. Still, there seems no doubt that Sheriff Crum was a positive force, a good man, civic-minded and was carrying out a war on drugs during the short three months he held office.
The shooting, of course, added to the debate regarding guns and their role in American life. While Sparks said he wanted to put an end to the “rampant speculation and conjecture” surrounding the shooting, it is not likely to put the matter to rest any time soon.
“I respectively request that the public refrain from engaging in unfounded speculation and conjecture regarding Sheriff Crum’s murder,” the prosecutor said. “Now is the time to grieve, cherish memories and celebrate an admirable life of public service.”
While the West Virginia State Police and Williamson Police Department investigate the killing, I believe it is safe to conclude one thing: if the assailant had not had easy access to a gun, the murder of a good man might not have taken place. I understand the old adage, “when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns,” but the fact that so many citizens stand up and shout from the rooftops that guns should be accessible to every human being in the land is, I think, one of the real problems here.
Those who concern themselves with making guns as available as bread also commonly believe that our own government is the enemy. They have nightmares about a wicked despot assuming power and deciding to overwhelm us all AFTER he or she has confiscated our guns and ammo. The simple fact is that if a villain became president and wanted to make the population into Chinese-like robots, a couple of bombs dropped in strategic places would likely accomplish that goal, guns or not. Eliminating Los Angeles, for example, would likely bring most people on the West Coast into compliance with the federal government’s wishes.
Beyond that, the attack in Williamson underscores the fact that there are those who see government and law enforcement as the enemy. Rather than believing that police officers are there to protect and serve us, some citizens think of them as wolves in sheep’s clothing. By and large, my sense has always been that MOST law enforcement officials have their hearts in the right places and intend to protect and serve the public. As with anything else, there are a few bad apples. That, however, does not make government and law enforcement our enemies. In fact, in a republic like America, the government IS us.
There is no doubt I feel tremendous sympathy for the family and friends of Sheriff Crum. Equally, if the accused, Tennis Melvin Maynard, shot the sheriff in cold blood there is little room to feel positive toward him.
Still, let us take a breath and think about what happens when guns are in the hands of everyone. I have personally covered too many incidents where one child shot another with an “unloaded” gun. Guns are NOT the answer to every question.
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Meanwhile, Maynard’s father told the Associated Press that his son was exposed to harmful chemicals and was injured while working in an Alabama coal mine six years ago. The dad said his son was mentally disturbed and had no particular hatred for law enforcement.
That may be a reasonable explanation of what happened in Williamson and it could be a sad commentary on our times. I continue to believe that drug addiction is an illness, just like any other. Unfortunately, I believe it is the doctors who rail against illegal drug use who constantly prescribe such drugs for their patients. Then, when they suddenly become righteous and cut off the supplies, patients do insane things as a result.
Personally, I have sworn off all types of pain killers, etc. in my life. There are many, however, who lack the strength to do that.
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I am definitely not saying it is my personal strength that makes it possible for me to avoid pain killers. An Almighty God deserves the praise for all things as He orders our steps here on earth.
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Former Kanawha County Republican legislator Steve Harrison has filed papers to explore the possibility of running for congress next year. Harrison, a banker by trade, has always been well-liked on both sides of the political aisle and would definitely be a strong candidate for the seat being vacated by fellow Republican Shelley Moore Capito. Capito is leaving the house to run for the senate seat being left open by the retirement of Democrat Jay Rockefeller.
Along those lines, Capito has already raised nearly $1 million in her senate bid. The hugely popular daughter of former GOP Governor Arch A. Moore, Jr. is likely as near invincible politically as any Republican in the state. It may be difficult for Democrats, the state majority party, to even field a viable candidate against Capito.
Back to Harrison, the former legislator has routinely shown an interest in many offices since he left the capitol. Still, filing paperwork for an exploratory committee is a major step in Harrison’s direction.
The general thinking is that the congressional seat being given up by Capito is a Republican seat anyway.
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The West Virginia House Legislative Committee, an offshoot of the state Democrat party, held a fundraiser at the opulent South Charleston home of Delegate Doug Skaff last week. According to Skaff, s much as $150,000 was raised for future legislative races.
One of those races, of course, is expected to be Skaff’s run for the state senate in 2014. Donations at the event included $1,000 each from individuals and up to $15,000 in left-over campaign funds from past candidates. Skaff said Delegate Stephen Skinner kept the books for the event and he (Skaff) was not sure who gave what amounts to the cause.
Among the high-profile attendees at the April 4 event were State Senate President Jeff Kessler, House Speaker Rick Thompson and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. Skaff estimated about 40 legislators were in the crowd of approximately 150 people. Although all the elected officials present were Democrats, Skaff said several notable Republicans attended.
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Tennant is apparently on the campaign trail for governor in 2016 as she has been appearing more and more at political and public events. Tennant, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for governor two years ago, spoke at the massive United Mine Workers rally in Charleston two weeks ago.
Recent activities by Tennant and her husband, State Senator Erik Wells of Kanawha, have caused some to refer to them as “West Virginia’s power couple.” It is widely speculated that Wells will run for Capito’s vacant house seat next year.
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A contest is expected amid legislative maneuvering when a permanent replacement for State Fire Marshal Sterling Lewis, Jr. is chosen. Lewis will be stepping down on April 30, throwing the position that has been chosen by the state fire commission open.
Back-door legislative actions have attempted to change the way the fire marshal is selected, taking the power from the fire commission and giving it to the governor. It is doubtful those activities will be successful, however.
Interestingly, Lewis is expected to be temporarily replaced by Boone Countian Anthony W. Carrico. Carrico is currently the chief deputy and would logically move into the position on an interim basis. Some, including most volunteer fire departments in the state, are likely to support Carrico for the full-time job.
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Democrat State Senator Daniel Hall is working on a project to benefit hunters in southern West Virginia. Hall said last week he is preparing legislation that would facilitate opening private land in the state for hunting, assuming the property owner agrees.
Hall noted there are hundreds of acres of land in the southern part of the state that are privately owned, making legal hunting difficult. He has been negotiating with Division of Natural Resources and private land holding companies to reach a compromise to facilitate legal hunting, he told me.
Hall does not expect legislation this year but is looking toward the future.
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Surprisingly, several readers commented about my vague reference last week to the cane used by Senator Rockefeller in his recent appearance in Madison. Most said, “Jay Rockefeller walks with a cane? Why?”
I thought most knew that the senior senator is getting up in years and has faced several health problems recently. I certainly did not mean to imply that he is reduced in his ability to serve West Virginians since he uses a cane to walk. My response is that the cane is simply indicative of old age, which overtakes everyone at some point.
I am amazed, though, if the other members of the media have never mentioned nor shown Rockefeller walking with a cane. What in the world does that mean?
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Tips, questions and comments are welcome. Email or call me at 304-533-5185.