CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A West Virginia pastor is losing his job in the pulpit after lending his church's bus to police for a meth lab bust.
The bust last week netted three arrests in rural Lincoln County, but it cost Chris Wilkinson his $150-per-month job as pastor at Morning Star Community Church near Hamlin, a small town in Lincoln County. Police said the bus allowed them to approach the methamphetamine lab without arousing suspicion.
Wilkinson said Wednesday that some church members were unhappy with his decision to let police use the bus and asked him to step down a few days after the drug bust.
He said he will resign after nearly 10 years as pastor of the nondenominational church.
"It's kind of a shocker," said Wilkinson, who also serves as Hamlin's mayor and police chief.
It wasn't the first time he had lent the church bus to aid in combating the area's drug trade. He said he allowed the West Virginia State Police to borrow the bus a few months ago for a drug roundup in the area.
"Nothing was really said about it," Wilkinson said. "So when the sheriff's department asked to use it, I just said, 'Sure, go with it.'"
Lincoln County Chief Sheriff's Deputy J.J. Napier said Wilkinson's cooperation in offering up the bus played a key role in enabling officers to take the drug suspects by surprise.
Meth lab operators typically post lookouts to alert them if police cruisers are headed their way, Napier said. The church bus was able to get past the lookouts without drawing any warning signals, he said.
Soon, nine officers were piling out of the bus to make the arrests and shut down the meth operation in the community of Harts, about 15 miles south of Hamlin.