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Big Stone Gap police officer killed in line of duty; suspect arrested

Big Stone Gap police officer killed in line of duty; suspect arrested

Michael Chandler - Big Stone Gap Police Officer

BHC Chandler

BRISTOL — A Southwest Virginia man is in custody after an extensive search and investigation following the fatal shooting of a Big Stone Gap police officer Saturday.

The Virginia State Police confirmed Michael Chandler of the Big Stone Gap Police Department died Saturday evening at the Johnson City Medical Center of injuries sustained in an early morning shooting. A 33-year-old man from Big Stone Gap was apprehended by the Kingsport Tennessee Police Department's patrol division, criminal investigation division and SWAT team shortly after 8 p.m. at the Travel Inn on Lynn Garden Drive. He is currently being held on probation violations out of South Carolina and Wise County, Virginia.

Charges related to the fatal shooting were pending late Saturday, VSP said in a news release. The U.S. Marshals Service, which offered a $10,000 reward earlier in the day, the FBI, Wise County Sheriff's Office and Bristol Virginia Police Department assisted with the arrest in Tennessee.

Earlier in the day, about 4 a.m., Chandler stopped to speak with an individual who asked the officer to check on a person at a vacant home in the 2500 block of Orr Street, authorities said. When Chandler arrived at the residence, he encountered at least one person.

"It was during this encounter that Officer Chandler was shot," the VSP said in a news release.

A Wise County Sheriff's Office deputy was first to arrive on scene after the shooting. Chandler was found lying unconscious in a ditch along the driveway to the residence, state police said. His patrol car and another vehicle were both at the home, but there was no other person present, state police said.

The officer was initially transported to Norton Community Hospital and then flown to Johnson City Medical Center.

An extensive investigation and search then ensued, which involved the Big Stone Gap Police Department, Wise County Sheriff's Office and Wise County Commonwealth's Attorney Chuck Slemp. During the search, Ballad Health CEO Alan Levine said on Twitter that his organization was also offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person that shot Chandler.

"It is with a heavy heart that I must inform our community of the line of duty death of Officer Michael D. Chandler," Big Stone Gap Police Chief Stephen Hamm said in a written statement late Saturday. "His battle to survive today was truly miraculous. But, he succumbed to his injuries around 7:00 p.m. this evening at the hospital with his family at his side."

Chandler's loss will be felt by the town and across all of Wise County, the police chief said. Chandler also served as a volunteer with the Big Stone Gap Fire Department.

"Everyone remember Michael’s family in your prayers!" the Big Stone Gap Fire Department said in a statement "We have lost our brother tonight! Heaven gained another Guardian Angel to help fight the evil of this old world! Rest In Peace 5508 we have the watch from here!"

Police and fire agencies across the region shared their condolences late Saturday.

"Please keep his family in your prayers tonight, as this should have been a day to celebrate his 29th birthday — not a day to mourn his passing," Hamm said.

Chandler is the third law enforcement officer to be wounded in the line of duty this year in Wise County. In separate cases earlier this year, Norton Police Chief James Lane was shot and Wise County Sheriff's Office Deputy Robert Robinson was stabbed. Both sustained serious injures and survived.

Anyone with information related to this incident, please contact the Virginia State Police at 276-228-3131 or at | 276-645-2531 | Twitter: @RSorrellBHC |

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