A Clendenin man was shot and killed by Kanawha County sheriff’s deputies on Saturday afternoon, after the man allegedly shot at his neighbor’s house and then barricaded himself in a barn where he was living.
After deputies entered a barn on Leatherwood Road near Clendenin, Russell Elswick, 56, began to point a shotgun at them, according to a news release from the sheriff’s department.
Elswick’s neighbors called 911 just after 6 a.m. Saturday and said someone had shot their residence twice with a shotgun. A deputy arrived three hours later and was told that Elswick, who was living in a converted barn nearby, was the one who shot at the home.
The deputy learned that Elswick was not allowed to have a gun, and that he was wanted for missing a recent court date. More deputies then responded to the scene, according to the release,
Deputies talked to Elswick through a window in the barn door, as did a relative of Elswick, but he wouldn’t come out, according to the release. Deputies also threw a tear gas canister in the barn, and Elswick stopped communicating with them after that.
When deputies opened the window in the barn door to see if they could open the door itself, Elswick “appeared from behind a barricade at the rear wall with a shotgun,” according to the release. He allegedly threatened the deputies verbally, then began to point the shotgun at them. The deputies then shot Elswick.
The shooting happened shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday, according to the release.
The Kanawha Sheriff’s Office is conducting an internal investigation. Kanawha Sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Humphreys said Sunday that the Dunbar Police Department is conducting an external investigation, at the request of the Kanawha sheriff’s department.
Humphreys said deputies took more than three hours to respond to the initial shooting reports on Saturday because most were responding to the multi-county pursuit of a Boone County man wanted in connection with the death of his roommate. He said active 911 calls were answered during that time, but because the Leatherwood Road shooter had left, deputies responded to other, active calls first.
One neighbor who lives along Leatherwood Road said Sunday that he heard the shots fired on Saturday.
“He carried on a lot with the family,” said the neighbor, who didn’t want to give his name. “He never bothered anybody else around here.”
Another man, who didn’t give his name but identified himself as Elswick’s brother, stopped by the barn where the shooting took place on Sunday afternoon with two others. They removed some items from the barn before leaving on ATVs. The man said he wasn’t there when the shooting happened.
Humphreys said Elswick had been arrested in recent weeks because he had a gun when he wasn’t legally allowed to. One of the deputies at Saturday’s scene had arrested Elswick, Humphreys said.
In November 2012, Elswick was arrested after employees at Herbert Hoover High School in Clendenin saw him brandishing a shotgun at the school. Custodians at the school saw him around 5:30 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, and Elswick told them he “had business to take care of,” deputies said at the time.
Deputies found him sitting in a vehicle with a shotgun. He refused to get out of the truck, and fought with deputies who tried to remove him. One deputy broke his hand in the altercation, and another was hit by Elswick’s vehicle, which lurched forward as Elswick was pulled from it.
The shotgun deputies found in Elswick’s vehicle at the time was unloaded. Kanawha Sheriff’s Sgt. K.L. White said at the time that Elswick might have been under the influence of something, or mentally disturbed. He was charged with making terroristic threats and having a deadly weapon on school property and spent four months in jail.
Months later, in March 2013, Elswick’s lawyer told a Kanawha circuit judge that Elswick thought a friend was being held hostage at the school. “It was something that was not true,” the lawyer said.
The lawyer said at the time that Elswick had a history of drug problems and had recently been seriously injured in an ATV accident.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster eventually sentenced Elswick to two years of probation. The judge said Elswick suffered from delusions as a result of a head injury he received from the ATV accident. At the time, she recommended he get treatment for mental health and drug issues.
Humphreys said Sunday he didn’t know if deputies who responded to Leatherwood Road on Saturday were aware of any mental problems Elswick might have.
Reach Elaina Sauber at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-3051 or follow @ElainaSauber on Twitter.