Deputy shot on duty
McCreary County Sheriff’s Deputy Tyler Watkins is reportedly in critical but stable condition after being shot Tuesday night while responding to a routine call on Lick Creek Road.
By Greg Bird
Mark L. Dungan, 48, of Science Hill, was captured shortly after the shooting and charged with various offenses, including attempted murder of a police officer for his alleged actions in the case.
McCreary County Sheriff Randy Waters released a brief statement Wednesday morning thanking the first responders for their quick response, and the community for their support.
“We are extremely grateful to report that Deputy Watkins is in stable condition following the shooting last night,” Sheriff Waters said.
“I cannot begin to adequately express my gratitude for the outpouring of prayers and support from the community wishing the best for this young man.”
“I would also like to thank the numerous law enforcement officers and officials that responded last night and provided assistance with the investigation. The men and women from several local, state and federal agencies dropped everything to rush to the aid of a fellow officer. To see so many respond to aid a fellow officer, who many did not even know, makes us all proud.”
“To the McCreary County first responders, who did an amazing job in getting to the scene as fast as possible and rendering first aid to the fallen officer, the flight staff of PHI medical and the medical staff at the University of Tennessee – I could never find enough words to say thank you for the work you did in saving the life of one of my deputies.”
While official details of the incident are still coming out the official report issued by the KSP stated Deputy Watkins was responding to a call requesting a status check at a residence about 3 miles down Lick Creek Road in Whitley City around 8:00 p.m. when the shooting took place.
As Deputy Watkins arrived at the scene he spotted Dungan in a vehicle outside the residence. The Kentucky State Police report as Watkins approached the vehicle Dungan shot at Watkins multiple time, striking him and fled the scene.
Constable Cody Stephens, was also responding to the call at the time, met Dungan’s vehicle on Lick Creek Road traveling at a high rate of speed. Dungan struck Constable Stephens’ cruiser head on, disabling the officer’s vehicle and continuing down the road.
Stephens, uninjured in the collision, managed to extricate himself from the wreckage and continued on foot toward Deputy Watkins until a passerby gave him a ride on a 4-wheeler. Constable Stephens applied first-aid to his fallen comrade until EMS could arrive.
Initial reports at the scene state Deputy Watkins was possibly struck by two bullets during the altercation, one hitting his protective vest, and a second passing through his abdomen. He was airlifted to the University of Tennessee Medical Center for treatment of his injuries.
Dungan fled to the nearby Carter Cemetery where he abandoned his vehicle. Kentucky State Police Troopers Shaler Jones, Harrison Wells and Detective Billy Correll were the first to arrive at the cemetery and began looking for the suspect. The officers proceeded with extreme caution as Dungan had apparently made statements alluding to the possibility of further violence.
When Dungan spotted the officers, he reportedly surrendered and was taken into custody.
More than 30 officers from various police agencies from around the region, including the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, Kentucky State Police and ATF, responded to the scene to provide assistance in the investigation. As of Wednesday morning several officers were still on the scene attempting to locate the weapon used in the shooting as Dungan reportedly threw the gun in to the woods as he fled the scene.
Dungan was charged with attempted murder of a police officer, fleeing/evading police, tampering with physical evidence, resisting arrest, wanton endangerment 1st degree, criminal mischief and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon. He is being lodged in the Leslie County Detention Center.
The Kentucky State Police is continuing the investigation.
Watkins, 28, had served as a volunteer Deputy with the force for several months. On July 1 of this year he was hired full time and was slated to attend the Police Academy to earn his certification. He passed the first phase of that process just Monday when he passed the physical fitness test.
This was the first time an officer was shot in the line of duty in McCreary County since 1975 when Trooper John Hutchinson was killed in a shoot-out.