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Sheriff slaying suspect bought gun despite check

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The man accused of killing a West Virginia sheriff was not allowed to possess a firearm but was still able to buy a gun from a local dealer, even though the dealer ran the required background check, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Mingo County Prosecutor Michael Sparks said a breakdown in the reporting system enabled Tennis Melvin Maynard to purchase the gun used to kill Sheriff Eugene Crum on April 3 as the lawman ate lunch in a downtown Williamson parking lot.

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‘‘It appears the local dealer did what was legally required under the law,’’ Sparks said. ‘‘The breakdown happened somewhere else. There was a delay in the reporting of the necessary information. Really, an inexcusable delay.’’

While Sparks would not elaborate on why Maynard was barred from owning a gun, Maynard’s father has said his son had mental health problems and had previously been in an institution.

Federal law prohibits the sale of firearms and ammunition to certain individuals with a history of mental illness. States are required to share the names of mentally ill people with the background-check system, established under the 1993 Brady Bill.

In West Virginia, such information is supposed to be automatically reported to the FBI, which conducts background checks through its Criminal Justice Information Services Division in Clarksburg. That agency’s spokesman, Steve Fischer, said the division does not comment on specific background checks.

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