By John Raby
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A suspect in the fatal shooting of a West Virginia sheriff had bought a firearm despite being legally prohibited from possessing one, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks declined to say where 37-year-old Tennis Melvin Maynard bought the gun used to kill Sheriff Eugene Crum on April 3 as the lawman ate lunch in a downtown Williamson parking lot.
"At this juncture, it appears that the system didn't work, for whatever reason," Sparks told The Associated Press. "And we're exploring that."
Sparks also wouldn't elaborate on why Maynard was barred from owning a gun. But Maynard's father has said his son had mental problems and had previously been in an institution.
Federal law prohibits the sale of firearms and ammunition to certain individuals with a history of mental illness.
Authorities also have declined to say whether Maynard had a concealed weapon permit.
Despite being in office just three months, Crum made 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.
Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury has said Crum had received threats due to his job. But Sparks said there's no substantial evidence that Crum's death was drug-related or was in retaliation for drug enforcement investigations.
Witnesses told police Maynard was alone when he shot Crum, and investigators haven't disclosed a motive.
However, "I do believe we have a firm basic understanding of the circumstances," Sparks said.
Maynard was shot and wounded by a Mingo County 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 shot him in self-defense.
State Police say Maynard is up and moving at a Huntington hospital. Authorities have charged Maynard with first-degree murder and attempted murder.
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Copyright 2013 Associated Press