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Healing community, residents remember Sheriff Eugene Crum for drug initiatives

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Larry Croaff, a bailiff at the Mingo County courthouse, knew Sheriff Eugene Crum for 20 years. Larry Croaff, a bailiff at the Mingo County courthouse, knew Sheriff Eugene Crum for 20 years.
Nathan Lamere hung a flag in honor of Crum. Nathan Lamere hung a flag in honor of Crum.
Flowers adorned Crum's memorial. Flowers adorned Crum's memorial.

Larry Croaff, a bailiff at the Mingo County courthouse, knew Sheriff Eugene Crum for 20 years, describing him as a friend and a leader who really wanted to clean up the county's drug problem.

"We are still in shock here in small town USA," Croaff said, straightening one of the flowers in Crum's memorial wreath.

Crum was known for his tough drug enforcement programs such as Operation Zero Tolerance. Last year, the prosecutor's office saw the third highest number of felony convictions in Mingo County history.

Crum was eating lunch in his car April 3 when he was fatally shot. A deputy sitting with Crum arrested 37-year-old suspect Tennis Melvin Maynard, who led police on a short chase that ended in Delbarton. 

Police say the chase ended when Maynard exited the vehicle with a weapon and was shot several times by police. Maynard is expected to live and will face charges for attempted murder of a police officer, according to the West Virginia State Police.

In a special meeting April 4, the Mingo County Commission appointed Crum's widow, Rosie Crum, as interim sheriff until 2014.

Those who knew Crum say he will be remembered for his hard stance against drugs and his efforts to help his home county.

"He was just in office four months," Croaff said. "He tried so hard to fight the drug epidemic here. He loved the people of Mingo County. He had a big heart.

"I tell everyone I live in a town where we haven't had law enforcement for 30 years, and Eugene was elected and we finally started to see the law enforcement we needed," Croaff added.

Some pinned black ribbons to their shirts to remember Crum. A few of his coworkers at the courthouse sported red Operation Zero Tolerance t-shirts Crum handed out only a month before.

Others set up a makeshift memorial at the scene of the shooting, stuffing notes inside a bed of bright flowers.

 "Thank you for serving our community," read one note, stuffed inside a bouquet of yellow and pink roses.

"A fallen hero," was inscribed in a black ribbon, draped over stark white flowers.

Nathan Lamere, a Williamson member of the National Guard came out to the memorial, tacking a flag over the wood post. Lamere didn't personally know Crum but said he wanted to pay his respects.

"I support him 100 percent," he said.

Geneva Jude, a lifelong Williamson resident, said Mingo County has a "terrible" drug problem, adding "every time you turn around, someone is selling drugs."

And her hope rested with Crum.

"He was the only one that ever done anything about the drugs; he strictly enforced it," she said. "He had them running scared.

"We needed someone to help clean this place up and he was doing it — but not now."

Croaff, however, hopes Crum's efforts will inspire others.

"I believe if everyone would standup like he did and I believe he can inspire change," he said. "Just like that song you have to stand for something. … Eugene Crum stood for something."