By Jim Workman
For the Daily Telegraph
BECKLEY — Involved in the pursuit of a suspect accused of a domestic violence act in Greenbrier County earlier Monday, police officers converged on a car driven by Jimmy L. Hamlin Jr., 44, of Kathleen, Ga. late in the afternoon in Lewisburg.
Hamlin pulled off the Lewisburg exit of I-64 at about 4:30 p.m. and traveled a short way south before two officers from the Lewisburg Police Department — in separate vehicles, closed in on him.
Hamlin pulled off the side of the road on U.S. 219, near the Shoney’s and Ruby Tuesday’s restaurants, during a time of heavy traffic in the area.
Upon approaching the vehicle, the officers reportedly saw Hamlin had a rifle in his possession. He failed to comply with their directives, according to the police report.
“He made a threatening gesture with the rifle, so unfortunately, the officers there at the immediate scene had to respond to the immediate threat,” said 1st Sgt. Michael Baylous of the West Virginia State Police during a press conference in Beckley Tuesday.
“As a result of that, Mr. Hamlin died from the gunshot wounds,” Baylous, the WVSP Public Information Officer added. “The officers were confronted with (the suspect) presenting a rifle in a way that was a danger to the officer’s safety and the public as well. They had to respond in the best way they knew how to.”
Hamlin sustained multiple gunshot wounds and was transported to Greenbrier Valley Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Members of the West Virginia State Police, which also responded to the call along with Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Department, are in charge of the ongoing investigation.
Lewisburg Police Chief Tim Stover was on the scene.
“Traffic was stopped in both directions,” Stover said. “The time of day was very critical in this.”
The site of the domestic dispute that prompted the initial call to 911 has not been identified yet.
“I think it was in the west end of the county,” Stover said.
“Two officers made the stop in two separate vehicles,” he added. “There was some assistance from the sheriff’s department and the West Virginia State Police. It came together real quick and safely for our officers, in terms of manpower and the ability to contain the scene.”
Much is unknown about Hamlin, a Georgia native, at this time.
“He was dating a lady from the area,” Stover said. “We don’t know much more from that.
“911 had received a call that he had been involved with a domestic situation and that he was intoxicated,” Baylous explained. “That’s why the officers were looking for his vehicle.”
Officers involved were placed on leave, per protocol.
“There was more than one officer that fired and responded,” Baylous explained. “It’s normal to put them on paid administrative leave, to allow them some time to deal with this. As you can imagine, anytime you have a critical incident, it’s very stressful and very emotional. So we allow them to have that time off to deal with a situation like this. Everybody is different and deals with things differently, so I can’t give you an idea of when they’ll return to work. We’ll provide them with any resources they need to deal with this issue.
“Each and every one of our law enforcement officers, no matter what shift they’re working, when they put on their uniform and go out to serve and protect the public — this is the farthest thing from our mind that we want to occur,” Baylous added. “We don’t want to have to deal with a situation like this. This could be a possible ‘suicide by cop’ and you don’t want to have to take anyone’s life. But we train our officers to be prepared for any situation. Hopefully they react when faced with a critical incident by relying on their training and experience. That’s exactly what they did here.”