Collier: Shooting of suspect proper

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 17, 2000

Lawrence County prosecutor J.

Friday, March 17, 2000

Lawrence County prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr. said Sheriff Roy Smith and a deputy acted appropriately during Wednesday’s shootout with a West Virginia murder suspect.

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"Here we’ve got a guy who is suspected of murdering his aunt on the run and he points a firearm at two different officers," Collier said.

"From my initial review of the scene, it is so clear cut it’s not even something for the grand jury to consider," he said.

Following the shooting in which Alex Blankenship, 19, of Wayne, W.Va., died, Smith requested an independent state inquiry and the prosecutor’s involvement, despite a preliminary investigation that showed Blankenship’s wound likely was self-inflicted.

Blankenship allegedly shot Pam Adkins, 50, about 2 p.m. in Wayne, then took her van and fled to Burlington where a relative worked, according to unconfirmed Wayne County, W.Va., Sheriff’s Office reports.

Smith and a deputy, whose name is still not being released, approached the business in their cruisers at about 6:15 p.m., but Blankenship fled. The officers chased him, then Blankenship allegedly pointed a firearm at them from a car wash parking lot behind Sam’s Club.

Smith fired one round, but investigators think that bullet lodged in the van’s door, Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Jim Cochran said.

The officers found a handgun in Blankenship’s lap. He had suffered a single gunshot wound to the head and was pronounced dead at the scene.

"The preliminary information would indicate there was nothing improper that the sheriff’s department did," Collier said. "They acted appropriately."

Considering the officers’ involvement in the shooting, it was only proper to review the incident, he said.

"I suggested (the attorney general’s) Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Information team get involved rather than their own investigators when it involved their own personnel," he said.

Cochran agreed with that assessment Thursday afternoon, but said he could not release any other information about the incident.

There will be a meeting between local and West Virginia authorities to coordinate information from each law enforcement agency involved, he said.

Blankenship’s body was taken to the Franklin County coroner’s office for an autopsy. Details of the autopsy and BCI&I’s investigation could take weeks to receive, Cochran said.

Witnesses reported that there were at least four gunshots during the incident.

Some of the gunshots that were heard could have been echoes from the high walls of the nearby store, Cochran said.