WILLIAMSON, W.Va. (AP) — The man suspected of killing a West Virginia sheriff as he ate lunch in his car was mentally disturbed and had no particular vendetta against law enforcement, his father told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Melvin Maynard said his 37-year-old son, Tennis Melvin Maynard, was exposed to harmful chemicals and injured while working at an Alabama coal mine. He most likely did not target Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum, he said.
"He would have probably shot anybody, the first one he come to, you know what I'm saying?" the elder Maynard said.
"I know he was off. I know he should have been in a hospital," the father said, adding that his son had previously been in an institution. He refused to elaborate, saying only that "the same problem was eating him again."
Witnesses told police Maynard was alone when he shot Crum, and investigators still haven't determined why he shot the sheriff, said Dave Rockel, the Mingo County Drug Task Force commander and Williamson police chief.
Crum had been in office just three months before he was killed Wednesday afternoon, making good on a campaign pledge to help rid the southern coalfields of the illegal prescription drug trade blamed for thousands of addictions and overdoses.
Friends say he was shot to death in the spot where he parked most days, keeping an eye on a place that had been shut down for illegally dispensing prescription drugs to be sure it didn't reopen.
Tennis Maynard was shot and wounded by a Mingo deputy in a chase following the attack on Crum. State Police say he crashed his car into a bridge in his hometown of Delbarton, then got out and pointed a weapon at the deputy, who fired in self-defense.
State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous said Tennis Maynard is expected to survive and remained at Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington on Thursday.
Maynard has been charged with murder in Crum's death and attempted murder in the incident with the deputy, authorities said.
Before Crum's death, Maynard had never faced criminal charges in West Virginia, according to county and state records. Baylous said State Police had responded to past incidents involving Maynard, though he declined to elaborate.
The mental health problems described by Maynard's father appear to stem from a lightning strike near a drilling rig at Drummond Co.'s Shoal Creek mine on June 27, 2007. Tennis Maynard sued more than two dozen people and companies in 2009 over injuries he said he suffered at the mine. A lightning strike sparked an explosion, which news reports at the time said injured six people.
The lawsuit doesn't detail the nature of his physical injuries or say exactly what happened. But Maynard claimed he endured "extreme, severe, prolonged emotional and mental pain and suffering," depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incident.
The mine west of Birmingham had been cited for a string of safety problems and had been shut down for six months the year before the lightning strike, when methane gas ignited and the mine flooded.