BECKLEY, W.Va. -- Beckley police Cpl. William Reynolds didn't want to be sitting in a Jeep at 4 a.m. with his friend's girlfriend while doing undercover police work.
He'd gone out for a night of barhopping on Aug. 28, 2006, and hadn't expected to spend it chasing one potential drug dealer after another with his friend, Cpl. Charles E. "Chuck" Smith, according to courtroom testimony.
Reynolds didn't even work in the narcotics unit; Smith did.
But there he was, sitting in an undercover Jeep watching Smith be led to a drug dealer by Michael Martin, a local man who said he could find them a hookup.
As he watched Smith and Martin walk away, Reynolds had a bad feeling about what was going on. He told Smith's girlfriend, Jasminda Gonzales, to dial 911 - not to call it but just to go ahead and get ready to hit "Send" on her cell phone if anything went wrong.
Then something did go terribly wrong.
Smith was shot and killed moments later by the man Martin had brought him to, Thomas Leftwich.
The killing sparked outrage and an outpouring of sympathy for Smith and his family from around the state.
"As we were painfully reminded today, our progress in confronting our drug problem in West Virginia does not come without a tremendous sacrifice on the part of our dedicated law enforcement personnel, who every day put themselves in harm's way to keep our communities safe," Gov. Joe Manchin said at the time.
But why two off-duty police officers ended up trying to make a drug buy at 4 a.m. while drinking and with a girlfriend in the car has never fully been answered.
Leftwich and Martin were convicted in separate trials of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without mercy. Martin's conviction was overturned in December by the West Virginia Supreme Court. He is scheduled to be retried on April 12.
'Not comfortable with this'
Smith and Reynolds started off that evening in August 2006 with dinner and drinks at Ruby Tuesday's in Beckley. Smith was getting a divorce and left his young child with his soon-to-be-ex-wife shortly before meeting Reynolds, according to Reynolds' testimony at Martin's trial.
After Ruby Tuesday's, they went to Applebee's and another local bar and grill before going to the Pikeview Lounge to meet up with Smith's girlfriend, Gonzales, Reynolds said at trial.
Once inside the bar, a man started talking to Smith, having a private conversation with him away from Reynolds, the officer testified.
When Smith came back, he told Reynolds they had to leave.
"I thought something had happened. ... Maybe somebody was starting a problem," Reynolds said.
But instead, Reynolds and Smith were going to track down a drug dealer, although both were off-duty and had been drinking. Smith's autopsy listed his blood-alcohol level as .07, just below the legal limit, according to the transcript of the trial. At the trial, there was testimony that Beckley narcotics officers are on call 24 hours a day, according to the Supreme Court brief.
They followed Blackburn in Smith's Jeep, which was an undercover police car, thinking they were going with him to purchase drugs. But the drug dealer never appeared.
As they waited on Saunders Avenue, a woman approached the Jeep. It was after 3:30 a.m.
"She offered to take Chucky to someone else to get some [drugs]," Reynolds testified.
She offered her keys to the police officers as collateral for the drug deal. If she ripped them off, they could still get into her apartment.
Reynolds said he wanted to stop looking for drug dealers, but Smith wanted to pursue it.
After driving to an abandoned pool, Smith got out of the Jeep and walked with the woman to find a drug dealer, but Reynolds quickly put a stop to it.
Reynolds called Smith on his cell phone and told him, "I'm not comfortable with this. I'm coming to get you."
Once back in the Jeep, Smith and Reynolds spotted a Corsica sitting near the entrance to the abandoned pool.
A passenger in the Corsica got out and started running, Reynolds said. When the Corsica took off, Smith, Reynolds and Gonzales followed it, chasing it down with the Jeep's police lights flashing minutes later.