HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Two high-ranking law enforcement analysts spoke with WYMT about Wednesday's shooting death of Eugene Crum, the sheriff in Mingo County, W.Va.
CBS News senior correspondent and former FBI agent John Miller said Crum was in an extremely vulnerable position when he was shot.
Crum was engaged in his daily routine of eating lunch in his cruiser outside the county courthouse.
"Incidents like this where officers are not on guard, where they're not suspicious about a person approaching, leaves them with a real vulnerability," Miller said. "Because they are supposed to be open and available for assistance to the public for questions or directions."
Family members of the suspect, Tennis Maynard, 37, said he has mental health problems, just like the suspects in other shootings that gained national attention.
"Someone with an assault weapon walking into a school in Newtown...a movie theater in Aurora (Colo.)...a mall in Portland...and you say 'What is the thing that is giving the nation pause?'," Miller said. "It's people with serious mental illnesses who have access to serious weaponry."
Miller said what happened in Mingo County is especially shocking because attacks on law enforcement officers are becoming increasingly rare.
"The trend is that assaults, particularly with firearms against law enforcement, are supposed to be going down," he said. "In 2012 there was a 32 percent decline. These things are not just assaults on law enforcement officers, they are assaults on society. So they generate a lot of attention because people are concerned."
Miller said Crum's lunch routine might have been noticed by the killer.
"Routine leads to predictability," Miller said. "And predictability lends itself to two things. One is planning and the other is opportunity. It allows you to plan a crime like this because you know where your target is going to be and when your target is going to be in a vulnerable place. In this case, in a seated position in a car, which is a tactical disadvantage."
Peter Valentin, a former Conn. State Police investigator and forensic science lecturer at New Haven University, offered two theories on what may have led up to the shooting.
"One is that the sheriff was targeted by the killer specifically," said Valentin, who also worked with local media during last year's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. "And so he was aware of the sheriff's activities and knew that the sheriff would be there."
Valentin said the other possibility is, "That the sheriff just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and this person's unpredictable nature took the form of him shooting the sheriff."
Valentin said the shooting in Mingo County alarms him.
"These incidents are happening in places that we have considered safe," he said. "And it just reinforces the idea that we're taught all the time...that there is no safe place."
WFSB-TV contributed to this report.