By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
An Olive Hill police officer wounded in a shooting incident Monday afternoon is in stable condition, and was posting to social media later that day as the hunt for the shooter continued in downtown Olive Hill and spread into neighboring Lewis County.
The shooter, 30 year old Wesley Cornell of Vanceburg, was taken into custody early Tuesday morning and booked into the Carter County Detention Center on charges of first degree wanton endangerment of a police officer, and attempted murder of a police officer. Motivation for the shooting has not yet been confirmed.
Though the police department has not yet confirmed any details of the incident, officer Joe Preston with the Olive Hill PD posted to Facebook approximately an hour after being flown to the hospital by helicopter. Preston’s post said, “I’m good everyone, just glass in my forearm. Thanks for the prayers!”
Preston, according to reports, was sitting inside his vehicle, in the parking lot of the Olive Hill Welcome Center, when someone fired through the window of his vehicle, with conflicting reports on where the shots came from.
Some initial reports, for instance, claimed the shooter had fired from a wooded area across Tygart Creek. However, images released later in the afternoon by Kentucky State Police (KSP) showing an SUV driving the wrong way down Railroad Street indicated the driver in that vehicle was being sought for questioning in connection with the shooting. That would seem to corroborate reports that Preston was fired at from another vehicle – not from the opposite hillside.
According to a report shared with the Times from an anonymous source first responders were advised at the time of the call that the officer had been shot in the arm – Preston would later confirm he was only hit with glass – “from a high powered rifle and it has come through his window.”
The Kentucky State Police reportedly advised roadblocks at 174 and Tick Ridge immediately after the shooting, to prevent any suspects fleeing in that direction. The entirety of Olive Hill was shut down as units from state, county, and local police searched for the shooter, with traffic turned around on US 60 and advised to take I-64 or Blueberry Ridge if travelers needed to get through town.
Businesses locked their doors early and residents were advised to shelter in place as a public safety message was pushed to cell phones. That public safety message advised those in the area “By authority of the Kentucky State Police” to “shelter-in-place in downtown Olive Hill until told otherwise.”
The message also advised those along “Mill Street, Tom T. Hall Blvd, and Rt. 2” to shelter as well, leading businesses as far away as Smokey Valley to close and lock their doors.
“Do not leave your home or any business. This is a safety issue. Stay off the streets until further notice,” the message concluded.
The cancellations stretched as far as Grayson, where the Carter County Fiscal Court postponed their regularly scheduled meeting. With all available law enforcement on scene, and the motivation for the shooting undetermined at this time, Judge Executive Brandon Burton told the Times, cancelling the meeting seemed like the most prudent move the court could take to assure the safety of magistrates and the community.
As the evening wore on the KSP eased restrictions in Olive Hill, but kept the area immediately surrounding the Depot off limits to the public.
According to reports from the Lewis County Herald, and confirmed by first responder reports, the suspect in the shooting crossed into Lewis County, in the Laurel Creek area, and exchanged gun fire with Lewis County Sheriff personnel. KSP helicopters were reportedly in the air over the area, helping crews on the ground keep track of the suspect.
Residents in the area where Lewis, Rowan, and Carter Counties meet were also advised to shelter during the early evening hours as the search for the suspect continued.
Cornell was arrested by Kentucky State Police with Post 14 and booked into the Carter County Detention Center at 10 a.m Tuesday morning.
Messages left with law enforcement for comment and confirmation of details had not been returned at press time.
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