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Virginia Sheriffs’ Association
The Voice of Virginia’s Sheriffs & Deputies

Virginia State Police and other officers found the suspect and killed him.

Associated Press

VANSANT, Va. — A suspect opened fire on sheriff’s deputies responding to a robbery call at a rural salvage yard Sunday, killing two and injuring two others before being killed in a shootout, Virginia State Police said.

One of the injured deputies suffered life-threatening injuries. The other was in serious condition, state police said.

Buchanan County Sheriff Ray Foster called the shooting “one of a kind” for his department but declined to elaborate.

The owner of Roger’s Service Center in the Southwest Virginia community of Vansant told police that his business was being robbed and he had blocked the suspect’s vehicle with his own.

State police Sgt. Steve Lowe said that when deputies and state police arrived about 2 p.m., shots were fired. Two Buchanan County deputies were hit and died at the scene.

The other two deputies were shot when they arrived at the salvage yard, Lowe said.

State police and other officers found the suspect about two hours later and after “some sort of engagement,” they shot and killed him, Lowe said.

“I’m not sure what the confrontation was when they encountered him,” Lowe said. “Apparently he was identified as the right person.”

Lowe said he didn’t know if the man fired on police, or if he was armed at the time.

State police did not release the names of the deputies nor that of the suspect.

Friends, family members and Sharon Thornsbury, an administrative assistant in the sheriff’s office, identified the slain deputies as Neil Justus and Billy Stiltner and the injured deputies as Shane Charles and Eric Rasnake.

As of late Sunday, nearly 400 people had signed up on Facebook to attend a candlelight vigil at the Buchanan County Courthouse for the fallen deputies this evening. A Facebook page had also been set up in memory of the victims.

Nearby residents were asked to evacuate the area shortly after the initial shooting at the salvage yard.

According to the website The Officer Down Memorial Page, the last Buchanan County sheriff to die in the line of duty was in 1975 of a heart attack. The website lists four on-duty deaths for the department since 1905. The last by gunfire was in 1964.

Roanoke Times staff writer Sheila Ellis contributed to this report.