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Big Stone Gap community in shock following death of young police officer

Big Stone Gap community in shock following death of young police officer

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Community members in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, were in shock and mourning following the death of a police officer in the Wise County town.

Officer Michael Chandler of the Big Stone Gap Police Department died Saturday on his 29th birthday as a result of a shooting after being asked to check on a residence in the 2500 block of Orr Street around 4 a.m. Saturday morning.

“He was a great young man. This is just terrible,” Wayne Jordan, the owner of Curklin’s Restaurant in Big Stone Gap, said.

Jordan and Chandler played on a men’s basketball team Thursday nights at the Taylor Lewis Center at the East Stone Gap Baptist Church.

“He was very quiet, very soft-spoken,” Jordan, 44, said of Chandler. “He was just a good guy.”

Chandler had married earlier this year and was the father of a daughter and stepdaughter, according to Fred Dorton, another friend of the fallen officer.

Growing up in Big Stone Gap, Chandler had to care for his diabetic father and his two younger brothers, Dorton said.

“He took care of them, just like he was the dad,” he said.

Yet Chandler still found time to play football at Powell Valley High School.

“He treated everybody fair,” Dorton said. “I never heard anybody say anything bad about him.”

Dorton, 54, is a warehouse educator at Red Onion State Prison, where Chandler had worked prior to joining the Big Stone Gap Police Department.

“He was an all-around good guy,” Dorton said. “I saw him two weeks ago at a football game. I walked up to him, patted him on his back, and he said he was doing good.”

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued a statement memorializing Chandler. He also ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff the day of the officer’s interment.

“Pam and I were deeply sadden to learn of the loss of the Big Stone police officer Michael Chandler, who was killed yesterday in the line of duty,” Northam said in a statement issued Sunday. “Mike was a dedicated public servant, a devoted husband and father, a trusted member of the Big Stone Gap community. Like law enforcement officers across the commonwealth, he put his life on the line every day in service to his fellow Virginians. And at only 29 years old, he made the ultimate sacrifice.”

A man at the Big Stone Gap Volunteer Fire Department, answered the telephone Sunday but said the members were “too choked up” to talk about Chandler.

A Wise County sheriff’s deputy was first on the scene after Chandler was shot, police said.

The deputy found Chandler lying unconscious in a ditch along the driveway to the residence. His patrol car and another vehicle were both at the scene, but there was no one else at the scene, police said.

Chandler was initially transported to Norton Community Hospital before being flown to Johnson City Medical Center for treatment.

“It is with a heavy heart that I must inform our community of the line of duty death of Officer Michael D. Chandler,” town of Big Stone Gap Police Chief Stephen Hamm said in a statement Saturday night.

“His battle to survive today (Saturday) was truly miraculous,” Hamm said. “But, he succumbed to his injuries around 7 p.m. this evening at the hospital with his family at his side. Mike’s loss will be felt by our town and across all of Wise County.”

Late on Saturday night, police announced a Big Stone Gap man was in police custody after an extensive search and investigation by local, state and federal law enforcement following the fatal shooting of Chandler.

The 33-year-old male was apprehended without incident by the Kingsport Tennessee Police Department’s Patrol Division, Criminal Investigations Division and SWAT Team shortly after 8 p.m. Saturday at the Travel Inn located in the 800 block of Lynn Garden Drive in Kingsport, police said.

The suspect is currently being held on probation violations out of South Carolina and Wise County, Virginia, police said.

Charges related to the shooting of the officer are pending, police said.

Virginia State Police officials said they will release the male suspect’s name once he is charged in connection with the shooting.

jtennis@bristolnews.com | 276-791-0709 | @BHC_Tennis

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