The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

August 29, 2006


A city police officer is dead, and two Beckley men are in jail charged with his murder following an early Tuesday morning shooting during an undercover drug buy.

Beckley Police Detective Cpl. Charles “Chuck” Smith, 29, received three or four gunshot wounds to his torso and was pronounced dead at Raleigh General Hospital, State Police Capt. Scott Van Meter said.

Thomas Leftwich, 24, of South Fayette Street, and Michael Martin, 41, of Sour Street, were charged with first-degree murder and arraigned late Tuesday morning before Raleigh County Magistrate John Tanner.

Smith became the first Beckley police officer to die in the line of duty since David Lilly was shot and killed by Ronald Williams in May 1975.

In a statement he made to police, Leftwich said he shot Smith with a .357 revolver during a crack cocaine deal arranged by Martin near Club Attraction on South Fayette Street about 4:30 a.m. He said he shot Smith, then ran from the scene.

Smith, who grew up in the Sophia area and had a 2-year-old daughter, was a five-and-a-half-year veteran of the Beckley Police Department. He had spent roughly half of that time with the department’s drug unit.

According to the criminal complaint, Smith was working undercover when he arranged with Martin to buy crack cocaine. Martin called Leftwich to set up the deal, then told Smith they were to meet near the old Tink House, which is now Club Attraction, on South Fayette Street.

From there, Martin rode with Smith to the corner of South Fayette and Willow Lane, where the two got out of the car and spoke with Leftwich. When Leftwich asked who had the money to pay him, Martin told him Smith did, according to the complaint written by Senior Trooper R.A. Daniel.

Martin told police in his statement that he then saw Leftwich “reach something” to Smith, at which time Smith showed Leftwich his police badge. That’s when Martin ran, and as he did, he heard three gunshots, according to the complaint.

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