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Trooper involved in second fatal shooting this year

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A State Police trooper who fatally shot a man in Mercer County on Saturday is still under investigation for a fatal shooting in January.

Just before midnight Saturday, a Bluefield police officer pulled over a vehicle with four people inside. The officer put one man in handcuffs and placed him inside the police cruiser, said Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ash.

Ash identified the officer as Patrolman J.W. Murray. He is unsure why Murray arrested the man but said the man provided a false name and had no identification.

While in the cruiser, the man managed to bring his handcuffed hands to the front and he jumped into the driver's seat and took off, Ash said.

Another Bluefield patrolman on scene called for backup, and he and Murray initiated a pursuit.

The man was heading east on U.S 460 when he spotted a State Police trooper responding to the call and attempted to make a hard turn onto a side road before driving into a ditch, Ash said.

It's unclear if the man slid into the ditch or if the trooper struck the rear of the stolen cruiser, he said. Ash confirmed the trooper is J.R. Coburn of the Welch detachment.

Murray and Coburn chased the man up a hillside and attempted to subdue him.

The man then grabbed Murray's gun and refused to relinquish it after being ordered to do so, said State Police Sgt. Michael Baylous in a news release.

Coburn then fatally shot the man, Ash said.

The body was taken to the state Medical Examiner's office for identification, and his name hasn't been released pending family notification, Baylous said.

Police are working to identify the three other people inside the man's car, Ash said. They took off when police began pursuing the man.

Coburn, who is from Princeton and previously worked about four years with the Mercer County Sheriff's Department, was working "extra duty" at the time, Ash said.

Coburn had been stationed nearby, protecting Appalachian Power equipment used in storm recovery.

The shooting remains under investigation, and it's unclear if Coburn has been placed on leave.

Coburn is under investigation for fatally shooting a man during an incident on Jan. 29.

Coburn was off-duty and en route to his Princeton home when he responded to a call about a man armed with a rifle. He went with Mercer County sheriff's deputies to the Woodlawn Cemetery in Bluewell to look for the man.

The man, Jackie Spalding Jr., 34, allegedly fled from officers and was found a short time later in a vehicle on a service road behind the mausoleum.

Police said Spalding repeatedly refused commands to show his hands as Coburn approached the man's vehicle. Coburn then shot Spalding to death when he reached for the rifle, Ash said.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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