The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Police/Courts

January 15, 2013

State Police blame increased aggression, lack of respect for officer-involved shootings

SOUTH CHARLESTON — West Virginia law enforcement agencies have shot and killed four men in less than a week, and a spokesman for the State Police blames a growing aggression and lack of respect for authority figures.

No one is eager to be involved in what he calls “a critical incident,” Sgt. Michael Baylous tells WSAZ-TV. But officers must make snap decisions about the threats they’re facing based on their training.

On Jan. 8, Lewisburg police killed 44-year-old Jimmy L. Hamlin Jr. of Kathleen, Ga., after he allegedly threatened them with a rifle. He’d been pulled over after a domestic violence incident was reported but refused to comply with officers’ commands.

Two days later, troopers killed 37-year-old John Edward Dempsey of Logan after he led them on a chase in a vehicle he’d allegedly carjacked. Authorities say Dempsey had been suspected of killing two men during break-ins at their homes.

And on Saturday, officers killed two men in separate incidents.

Kanawha County sheriff’s deputies shot 49-year-old Lawrence Edward “Pete” Vaughn at a home near Pinch after he fired a pistol at them. Authorities had been answering a domestic violence call involving Vaughn and his mother.

Mercer County deputies, meanwhile, shot 31-year-old Jason Dillon late Saturday night in a standoff.

After Dillon allegedly trying to destroy a house near Montcalm with a chain saw, police say he brandished a club-type weapon and refused commands to drop it.

Last year, Baylous said there were 32 reported cases of officers threatened with a gun. In the first few weeks of 2013, there have already been three.

He blames the attitude of “a whole generation of kids” on their poor upbringing.

“Morals weren’t clearly defined for them,” he said. “As a result of that and other contributing factors, we’re reaping what we’ve sown.”

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