AFLEX, Ky. - A suspect in a theft in Pike County, Kentucky, died after jumping into the icy cold Tug River to evade police.
Kentucky State Police's Pikeville Post 09 has opened a theft investigation at Aflex, Kentucky, in Pike County. The suspect was identified as Justin Mark Hatfield, 32, of Delbarton, West Virginia, according to Kentucky State Police Pikeville Post 09.
Just after 6 a.m. Thursday, KSP Post 09 received a complaint of a theft from a vehicle. While an employee was working at Appalachian Tobacco in South Williamson, Kentucky, a person broke into the employee's vehicle and stole a purse and possibly other items from inside the vehicle.
When the trooper arrived at the store, he viewed the security video and identified the person who broke into the vehicle as Hatfield. The trooper then made contact with Hatfield at his residence and while questioning him the trooper discovered evidence indicating involvement in the theft. While being arrested, Hatfield allegedly assaulted the trooper and a struggle ensued. Hatfield then ran over the river bank and jumped into the river. For a short period of time, it was unknown if Hatfield had made it across the river, so emergency personal were called to assist in the search.
The Belfry Volunteer Fire Department and Prestonsburg fire departments conducted the search, which included a boat.
At about 1 p.m., Mingo County 911 received a call from a Norfolk Southern Railroad conductor, informing them a body was observed lying on the tracks near the Rawl, West Virginia, railroad crossing. Hatfield was located by Lt. J.E. Spence of the Williamson Police Department, Sgt. M.S. Lively and Trooper J.D. Matheny of the West Virginia State Police. Upon arrival, they found an unresponsive male, EMS was called to the scene, and the patient was transported to Williamson Memorial Hospital around 2:40 p.m. and treated for exposure. He died a short time later.
His body has been taken to the State Medical Examiner's office in Frankfort, Kentucky, for an autopsy.
This investigation is ongoing and led by the Kentucky State Police Critical Incident Response Team. Further details will be released as they develop, according to the KSP. In addition to the WVSP, WPD, KSP, BVFD and PFD other agencies on scene were Mingo County Sheriff's Department, NS Railroad and Pike County Emergency Management.
Free lance writer Kendra Mahon contributed to this article.
Kyle Lovern is editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at 304-236-3526 or via email at klovern@HDMediaLLC.com.