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'Kinks in the chain' allowed alleged sheriff shooter to buy gun, official says

W.V. State Police via Reuters

Tennis Melvin Maynard, 37, is seen in this undated handout photo released by the West Virginia State Police.

A man alleged to have shot and killed a West Virginia sheriff on April 3 should have been barred from owning a gun, but got his hands on a weapon after his background check was delayed by "kinks in the chain" a county prosecutor said.

Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum was sitting in his parked police SUV eating lunch when Tennis Melvin Maynard, 37, allegedly shot him twice using a .40 caliber Glock handgun, police have said.

"It was a federal and state violation for him to possess a firearm, and he possessed other firearms also," Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney C. Michael Sparks told NBC News. Sparks declined to say what on Maynard's record prohibited him from owning the gun with which he allegedly shot Crum.

"The dealer did what was legally required under the law," Sparks said. "The disqualifying event ... it was not in the federal database when the gun was purchased. There was a delay in the time period between the triggering event and the information being reported to the federal database."

A separate, subsequent attempt by Maynard to buy a firearm failed when the background check system flagged him, Sparks said.

Sparks said West Virginia has “one of the more sophisticated systems in America as far as reporting this type of information.”

Maynard fled from the alleged shooting, police said, but was stopped when his car crashed into a bridge. After raising his gun to a pursuing deputy, Maynard was shot. He was transported to a hospital and authorities have said he is recovering from his injuries. Maynard has been charged with murder and attempted murder.

Williamson Daily News via AP

This undated photo shows Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum. Crum was gunned down Wednesday, April 3, 2013.

Maynard had spent time in a mental institution and “the same problem was eating him again,” his father told The Associated Press. Federal law prohibits the sale of guns to people who have been adjudicated mentally defective or spent time in an institution.

“He would have probably shot anybody, the first one he come to, you know what I’m saying,” Maynard's dad, Melvin, said. “I know he was off, I know he should have been in a hospital.”

A funeral for Crum, 59, at Mingo Central High School on Sunday was attended by close to 400 law enforcement officers who remembered the sheriff for his efforts to combat Mingo County’s drug trade.

“We ask all the time where have all the heroes gone?” Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury said in a eulogy, according to the AP. “Let me tell you, sometimes we walk in their midst and we don’t know we got them. He was mine.”

Crum’s wife, Rosie, was appointed to fill her husband’s position as interim sheriff on April 4. The county’s first female sheriff, she was sworn in during a candlelight vigil honoring her husband.

The news that Maynard never should have been able to buy a gun came Wednesday as Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat, proposed a bipartisan deal with Sen. Patrick Toomey that would expand background checks and strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) by refusing some federal funds to stats that fail to submit full records. The NICS was established in 1993 by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.

Randy Snyder / AP

Members of the honor guard carry the body of the late Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum on Sunday, April 7, 2013, at the Mingo Central High School in Matewan, W.Va.