CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney C. Michael Sparks said investigators are looking into how the man who allegedly killed the county sheriff last week was able to buy a gun despite being legally prohibited from owning one.
Tennis Melvin Maynard, 37, is accused of fatally shooting Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum as the sheriff ate lunch in his car last week. Maynard allegedly used a .40 caliber Glock handgun in the shooting.
Sparks confirmed Wednesday that the Delbarton man bought the gun at a local gun store. The prosecutor previously had said that Maynard is prohibited by law from owning a gun.
Sparks would not say what disqualified Maynard from buying a gun, but Melvin Maynard, Tennis Maynard's father, has said his son has mental problems and had been institutionalized in the past. A stay in a mental institution generally prohibits someone from owning a gun under state and federal laws.
Every time someone buys a gun from a licensed gun dealer, they are required to fill out Federal Form 4473, which asks them a list of questions. Questions include whether they have a criminal history, are the subject of a domestic-violence petition, or have ever been judged mentally incompetent or been committed to a mental institution.
Gun dealers are then required to contact the FBI call center in Clarksburg and conduct a background check on the purchaser. Criminal histories and a history of mental-health problems are supposed to be reported to the FBI. Even if the buyer lied on the form, the background check is supposed to catch if the buyer has mental-health problems.
"There was a breakdown in the system somewhere," Sparks said.
However, he said he doesn't think the gun dealer is responsible for the problem. "That's not where the system broke down," Sparks said.
According to the FBI, more than 1 million people have been denied a gun purchase through the mandatory background-check system since Nov. 30, 1998. The majority -- about 590,000 --were denied for having been convicted of a crime. About 103,000 more were denied for being convicted of domestic violence and an additional 43,000 were turned down because they had a restraining order against them or a domestic-violence petition filed against them.