Slain man wanted to be shot, trooper was told

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Charleston man resisted arrest and then acted like he had a gun when officers fatally shot him early Friday morning, police said.Police shot and killed Craig M. Keith, 34, after he led officers from several law enforcement agencies on a chase that spanned three counties. Keith -- who was originally from Altoona, Pa., and had been living in Charleston -- was shot after police used spike strips to stop his vehicle on Interstate 77 in Jackson County.Keith's friend told officers when the chase began that Keith would "pretend he had a weapon" so authorities would shoot him, rather than go back to jail, said West Virginia State Police Sgt. Michael Baylous."That's what our preliminary investigation is showing," Baylous said.Baylous said Keith didn't follow orders to show his hands during the felony traffic stop and resisted being placed under arrest."All nonlethal means to take him down were ineffective," Baylous said.Keith then acted like he had a gun, prompting officers to fatally shoot him, he said.Baylous said he could not comment on many aspects of the incident because it remains under investigation. The case will be handed to Jackson County prosecutors to determine if the shooting was justified. Baylous did not know how many officers were on scene or how many shots were fired.The chase began at about 2:30 a.m. at the Mardi Gras Casino & Resort in Nitro. Casino security workers called police after Keith was asked to leave and created a disturbance. When Nitro police arrived, they apprehended Keith but released him to a friend who agreed to drive him home.
However, police followed Keith when he got into his tan Chevrolet SUV and took off.The chase -- which eventually included officers from Charleston, South Charleston and Dunbar, the Kanawha County and Jackson County sheriff's departments and State Police troopers -- continued onto Corridor G. Keith first headed south into Lincoln County, then turned around and headed north toward Jackson County.Baylous said the friend who arrived to pick Keith up told officers Keith would not go back to jail and would do anything not to return. Keith had served time in Pennsylvania on charges of driving under the influence, assault and obstructing officers.The friend, identified as Bill Wyandt, commented on the Gazette website on Friday. He said Keith, his best friend and roommate, made a mistake that night by driving away but did not deserve to die."There was nothing crazy going on, he was just drunk and not in his right mind. [The police] made it sound like he was so against going back to jail," Wyandt wrote. "He only served like a month for a second DUI a few years ago. They make it sound so much worse."Wyandt wrote that he told police that Keith was unwilling to get a third DUI.
Baylous said no one would know what was truly going through Keith's mind at the time. It appears he wanted to commit "suicide by cop," he said."We had a statement saying he would do that, and that's what he did," he said.Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.
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