PINEVILLE, Ky. – Two teenagers were charged with murder Thursday after they led police on a high-speed chase on a wet road and hit a parked sheriff's cruiser, killing the deputy and K-9 dog inside, authorities said.
The suspects, a 17-year-old driver and a 16-year-old passenger whose names were not released, were not seriously injured.
"That happens so often. The bad guys walk away ... too many times," said Bell County Sheriff Bruce Bennett, pausing to brush back tears. "Of course, these are young people. But still, they are murderers now."
The driver left an Exxon station in Baxter without paying for gas at 12:35 a.m., authorities said. Police followed the car at least 10 miles west on U.S. 119 into a neighboring county.
Two state troopers attempted to stop the speeding driver on the winding highway through the mostly rural, rugged Appalachian coal-mining region in southeastern Kentucky, state police said.
The teen's car veered over the center line of the two-lane road and rammed into a cruiser parked on the shoulder waiting to join the pursuit, killing Bell County Sheriff's Deputy Sean Pursifull, 31, and his K-9 dog King, state police said. Police estimated the car was going well over 100 mph when it left the road.
"It's just a tragedy on multiple levels. This was a $38 tank of gas — that's what this boils down to," Bell County Judge-Executive Al Brock said.
The driver is from New Castle, Del., and the passenger is from Chester County, Pa., said Kentucky state police Trooper Walt Meachum.
Police were withholding information about the suspects, including their names and why they were in the hinterlands of Kentucky, less than 15 miles from the Tennessee border, because they are juveniles.
Both were released from a hospital and jailed in the Adair County Juvenile Detention Center on charges of murder of a police officer and assault on a service animal.
Pursifull and his dog made up the K-9 unit at the 25-man sheriff's department in the county that has an estimated population of just under 30,000.
"He was really dedicated to his job. One of the best officers I ever worked with. He was an excellent canine officer. He and his dog were a team," said Sgt. Tom Busic, a K-9 officer from the Middlesboro Police Department who trained with Pursifull.