Ky. community ‘forever changed’ after 3 officers killed serving warrant

Authorities described the tragedy as a "tactical ambush" with "a field of fire of over 200 yards"


By Taylor Six
Lexington Herald-Leader

FLOYD COUNTY, Ky. — Local officials on Sunday recounted the fatal shooting that left three law enforcement officers dead on Thursday. It was called “the deadliest law enforcement death event in Kentucky” since 1923 by Ross Shurtleff, deputy chief of Prestonsburg police.

On Thursday at 6:30 p.m., Lance Storz, 49, of Allen, allegedly opened fire with a high-powered rifle on Floyd County sheriff’s deputies attempting to serve an emergency protective order, according to local officials.

County officials say the ambush resulted in the death of three officers and a sheriff’s K9 unit: Floyd County Deputy William Petry, Prestonsburg Police Department Captain Ralph Frasure, Prestonsburg Police Office Patrolman Jacob Chaffins, and Floyd County K9 Drago.

Emergency Management Director Joe Reynolds and another sheriff’s deputy were shot and are still receiving treatment, officials said Sunday. A state trooper was also shot. Multiple officers also received treatment after suffering injuries from glass, shrapnel, and other related injuries, according to Floyd County Judge-Executive Robbie Williams.

Prestonburg Police Cpt. Ralph Frasure (left), Floyd County Deputy William Pety and Prestonburg Police Officer Jacob Chaffins.
Prestonburg Police Cpt. Ralph Frasure (left), Floyd County Deputy William Pety and Prestonburg Police Officer Jacob Chaffins.

The emergency management director had to have surgery on his eye and it’s reported that he will lose his left eye, officials said. Another deputy is also expected to have numerous surgeries on his eye.

The three deputies are reported to be in good spirits but are still recovering from injuries, officials said. One deputy was shot in the leg, and it’s unclear what the result of his injuries will be. Constable Gary Wolfe was shot and sustained multiple facial and eye injuries.

Storz has been charged with two counts of murdering a police officer, five counts of attempting to murder a police officer, one additional count of attempted murder and one count of assaulting a service animal, according to court records. He’s been held in jail on a $10 million bond and is scheduled for his next court appearance on July 11.

“These officers did not know they were walking into a tactical ambush and the shooting had a field of fire of over 200 yards,” Williams said. “There was one single-lane road leading into his home and the home was in an elevated position. This created a nearly unbreachable position.

“The officers performed valiantly, and did everything in their power to neutralize the suspect and attempt a surrender. Upon surrender, the reality and magnitude of what just occurred began to sink in and our community was going to be forever changed.”

Floyd County Sheriff John Hunt said around 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 30, his office received a phone call from someone who alleged that Storz was holding a woman against her will and abusing her.

Hunt said at that time, a call was placed to a deputy to respond for a welfare check at Storz’ home. A second deputy went with him.

Hunt said when deputies arrived at the residence, Storz’ alleged victim was waiting outside. She got into a cruiser, and deputies found out Storz was still inside.

The woman told law enforcement she had been held hostage and had been the victim of criminal activity, and Storz had taken her cell phone and wouldn’t let her use it, according to Hunt.

These allegations led the deputies to secure a protection order. The victim was taken to a hospital where she was treated. Once the emergency protective order was signed, law enforcement went to the home again to arrest Storz over the assault allegations.

Hunt said when the deputies turned down the street, Storz had a perfect line of sight to see the deputies approaching, and watched them from an upstairs window. Deputies were told Storz had guns in the home, but they didn’t know how many.

Two additional deputies, Dusty Newsome, and Darren Lawson, met up with the original responding deputies, Petry and Hall.

“Deputy Newsome and Deputy Petry approached the house, and Deputy Petry was the first one,” Hunt said. “The suspect immediately opened the door and had been waiting on them.”

When Lawson came out of his vehicle, he was immediately shot. Newsome is said to have dragged Lawson out of the line of fire. They called for help and additional units with Kentucky State Police, Prestonsburg police and constables arrived on scene.

Floyd County Attorney Keith Bartley was on scene at the shooting and said he heard the call for help when the first shot took place.

“The initial information that I got was that a police officer had been shot,” he recalled. “I was under the initial impression it was Deputy Lawson. I had no idea of the rest of the horror story. I quickly went to the call as fast as I could thinking that when I got there, if anyone needed help I could be there to help, but two, I would want to be sure and ensure that the underlying investigation into the shooting of Deputy Lawson was handled correctly to be sure (the suspect) would be going to jail forever.”

He saw state police cars at a service station outside of Allen and could tell they were not from the area. He introduced himself, and said they were in the wrong location, and led them to the residence in Allen.

“When I arrived a few police offers were there, the sheriff was there, and I was getting out of my car still thinking there was one police officer shot and thinking I was there to assist in an investigation,” Bartley said. “I remember Deputy Kevin Shepherd over on my left screamed at me ... I am trying to remember his exact words ... but he basically wanted me to duck for cover and to come to him.”

He said things were much worse than he originally knew.

“From there, all hell unfolded in front of my eyes,” Bartley said.

Bartley said Storz used multiple weapons. Hunt said Storz was observed by deputies with a body armor vest.

Prestonsburg Police Chief Randy Woods said he and his staff will continue to “hold the line.”

“I just want to talk about the devastation we have seen that has happened in our community. It happens too often in our country today and I don’t know the answer. I don’t know exactly where we go, but I know that we continue to hold the line. ... That is all we are here left to do is hold the line,” Woods said.

“The fallen, we will continue on in their honor, our community, and our loved ones to make sure that they are safe.”

Since Friday, a GoFundMe page has been set up to help the victims’ families, with over $40,000 raised. People’s Bank has set up an account for the families and is going to match the first $10,000. Community Bank and Trust has also set aside $5,000.

“We don’t want folks to let up,” Williams said. “One funeral is $10,000. We have multiple individuals that are still receiving medical care. We have three individuals in the University of Kentucky Hospital on Friday undergoing surgeries. Those families are going to be down there on extended stays and there are going to be hotel expenses associated with that. And we don’t need folks to let up.

“For a small community like us – we are not Lexington, we are not Louisville – we are grateful for every penny we get because these officers and these families deserve it.”

Shurtleff also said he wants to make sure the victims and their families are remembered forever.

“A lot of times you see a huge outpouring of love and support,” he said. “Jake leaves behind a wife, and a 6-year-old little girl. Ralph leaves behind a wife, a daughter, two sons — one of which is a police officer who was there that night — grandchildren. Petry leaves behind a wife and a son and a host of family that we are all interconnected with.

“You see a huge outpouring of support for a period of time, and then people return to their new version of normal. I will make it my life’s mission that that new version of normal includes them as long as we draw a breath of air.”

Petry’s visitation will take place Sunday night at 6 p.m. at the Nelson Frasure Funeral Home in Martin and will continue Monday with services to be held at the Mountain Art Center at 11 a.m. A burial will follow in Prestonsburg at the Gethsemane Gardens.

Frasure’s arrangements will begin Monday at 6 p.m. with the visitation at Nelson Frasure Funeral home lasting through all day Tuesday. Funeral services will be held Wednesday at the Mountain Art Center at 1 p.m. Burial will follow at the Gethsemane Gardens in Prestonsburg.

Chaffins’ visitation will begin at 6 p.m. at the Tom’s Creek Freewill Baptist Church Wednesday. Funeral services will be held Thursday at 1 p.m. at the Mountain Art Center. His burial will also follow at the Gethsemane Gardens.

©2022 Lexington Herald-Leader. Visit at kentucky.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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