RED JACKET — As he tried to squash the feelings of grief, pain, anger and sorrow to continue to perform his law enforcement duties during the funeral and burial of the late Sheriff Eugene Crum, Mingo County Drug Task Force Commander David Rockel spoke with the Daily News about his personal and professional feelings surrounding the tragedy, and how he and the members of the Mingo County Sheriff’s Department intend to deal with their loss.
“Yes, we have suffered a tremendous loss because of an unthinkable, senseless, cruel act,” stated Commnader Rockel. “Eugene Crum was a dedicated sheriff, in the short time he held this office he accomplished a great deal. He and I were definitely on the same page when it comes to fighting crime. We thought alike, we had the same goals. We became an awesome team. I can’t even begin to express my sadness over his loss, and of the anger I feel when I think about this act of evil that took a life all too soon.”
“To those who fool themselves into thinking that your illegal acts of drug trafficking are no longer something you should fear facing repercussions for, please allow me to set you straight.”
“You have awakened the sleeping giant, and we will find you…we will arrest you, we will convict you and you will go to jail.”
“Operation Zero Tolerance is far from over. We will work day and night to continue the legacy of Sheriff Eugene Crum. No stone will go unturned, no tip will be ignored. In the words of my friend and our sheriff Eugene Crum that will be remembered throughout the history of Mingo County – If you’re dealing drugs, we will be knocking on your door,” said Rockel.
“Did they hurt us? Definitely. Are we suffering? Without a doubt. Are we going to throw in the towel and say that they have won because someone took Eugene’s life? Absolutely not!! Never will we give up this fight. In fact, this tragedy has lit a flame in all our hearts that can and will not be extinguished, and has only resulted in making all of us more determined than ever to fight the drug war, to make Mingo County a safe place to live.”
Rockel spoke of how very proud the late-sheriff was of the deputies he fondly referred to as “his boys”, and said that seeing the tears flow from their eyes during the funeral and burial ceremonies proved to him that the love between their brotherhood was mutual, as well as their respect.
“We’ve got a great group of men who will not ever disrespect the memory or wishes of Eugene Crum. We are banded together in a unified force. Each and every time we make an arrest, we will be carrying the torch that he lit on Jan. 1, 2013, when he took the oath of office and became our sheriff,” Rockel stated.
“God Speed my friend…until we meet again.”
“He was my friend, my brother – our fallen sheriff,” were the words Mingo County Judge Michael Thornsbury used to open the funeral of the late Sheriff of Mingo County, Walter “Eugene” Crum.
Several thousand attended the visitation and funeral of Sheriff Crum, who was gunned down as he was sitting inside his official vehicle in downtown Williamson last Wednesday. Over 500 law enforcement officials were in attendance from all across the nation including Alaska, California, Mississippi and Texas. 273 police cruisers participated in the funeral procession as a show of respect to the fallen sheriff.
Judge Thornsbury spoke of the great love Eugene had for his family, saying he and the late sheriff never had a conversation that his widow’s name or those of his children didn’t come up.
“He had such a sense of pride in his family, they came first in his life,” stated the judge. “You couldn’t tell where the Crum’s ended and the Martin’s (his wife’s family) began. They were a solid unit…they stood together.”
Thornsbury spoke of the many private conversations he shared with Eugene, remarking that a man’s character isn’t measured by statements and remarks made in the public eye, but rather by those made in private.
“That being said, I can tell you that my friend Eugene Crum was a man of his word, his word was his bond. Never one time in all the years that I’ve known him has he ever lied to me. If he told me something, I could bank on it,” said the judge.
“He was a true gentleman and he had a heart bigger than this state…but when he put that uniform on and the gun on his side, he would do whatever it took to see that justice prevailed. He always had compassion, even for those he arrested. He tried to help those with problems to overcome addictions, help them see there was a better life out there for them that didn’t involve drugs and crimes. There have been so many people come up to him while I’ve been by his side and asked if he remembered arresting them, and then proceeded to say the words – you saved my life.”
“What greater thanks could any officer hear that would mean more than that?”
Thornsbury spoke of how Eugene began his law enforcement career as a corrections officer and then worked as an officer with the Matewan Police Department, where he worked with Chief Dave Stratton for 11 years before accepting the Chief of Police position with the Town of Delbarton. He then served as a magistrate for 10 years, 6 of those being as chief magistrate, before resigning to run for the office as sheriff.
“This was a dream that he had for many years, he wanted to serve and protect as our sheriff,” said Thornsbury. “He got to see a lot of his dreams fulfilled and not too many people can say that.”
The judge was very emotional as he told those who attended the funeral that Eugene proudly served Mingo County as their sheriff for 93 days, and stated that he wished he would have recorded every one of them because they are such precious memories.
“57 felony drug convictions in 93 days…he did his job, he kept his promise, and we are united and committed to continue his legacy. The flame he lit will never be extinguished. His watch here on earth may have ended but I feel in my heart that his spirit will always be by his wife’s side, as well as all the deputies and will be their guardian angel…their protector.”