Saturday, August 16, 2003
Grant lawman dies in shooting
News staff writer

GRANT - A juvenile wounded in a Friday shootout that killed the police chief of Grant is likely to be charged with capital murder, the Marshall County district attorney said.

Grant Police Chief Verlon LeMaster was shot about 10:30 a.m. Friday while serving a warrant on a runaway juvenile at a house on Cathedral Caverns Highway, the main road that runs through the town on Grant Mountain, authorities said.

LeMaster and a 17-year-old boy were taken by helicopter to Huntsville Hospital. LeMaster died shortly before noon, and the juvenile was in the hospital's surgical intensive-care unit Friday evening with two gunshot wounds, authorities and a hospital official said.

The Alabama Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting and will turn its findings over to the Marshall County District Attorney's Office, said J. Denise Collins, spokeswoman for the Alabama State Troopers.

Marshall County District Attorney Steve Marshall said he anticipates capital murder charges being filed against the juvenile. If they are, prosecutors will seek the death penalty, he said.

Authorities were questioning another 17-year-old boy who was in the house Friday, Marshall said. Whether that boy will face any charges will be decided by Monday, he said.

Sheriff's deputies from Madison and Marshall counties and an Owens Cross Roads police officer also had gone to the home to help serve the warrant, Marshall said. LeMaster and at least one - possibly all three - of the other officers were inside the house when the shooting occurred, he said.

LeMaster did not fire his gun, Marshall said. He declined to give other details of the shooting but said officers followed proper procedures in attempting to arrest the juvenile.

Marshall later declined comment on details of the warrant.

A grieving town:

Amelia Self of New Hope said her sister lives in the house where the shooting occurred. She said the two 17-year-old boys were friends with her sister's 15-year-old daughter, and the two showed up Thursday night after running away from home. Self said her sister tried to persuade the boys to go home.

"This shocks me," said Self, who described the two boys as good and respectful.

As investigators reviewed the scene of the shooting Friday afternoon, residents in the town were grieving the man who served the community most of his adult life.

Flags at banks and public buildings around Grant were being flown at half-staff in memory of LeMaster, who had been with the Grant Police Department 20 years, the last 14 years as police chief.

Tears also were flowing at the Grant Volunteer Fire Department, where LeMaster was a volunteer firefighter. He also was treasurer of the fire department board and was the town's safety officer.

Firefighters described LeMaster as an easy-going man who would show up on- or off-duty to help at wrecks and fires or to find lost people.

"He died doing what he loved to do," said Bob Davis, the assistant fire chief in Grant.

LeMaster was born and reared in Grant. He had one daughter, friends said.

Police officers, sheriff's deputies and state troopers from the region who converged on Grant also were visibly shaken.

"The fact that he died in the line of duty shows his commitment to this community and to the people that he works with, and we will grieve for him," Marshall said.

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