PENNINGTON GAP — The fallout from Pennington Gap Police Chief Bryan Young’s arrest continued Monday, as the Town Council voted unanimously to terminate his employment and begin the search for a replacement.
Young, 41, was arrested Thursday on prescription drug distribution and gun charges at the Lee County Courthouse by agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Young is currently being held in federal custody without bond following his arraignment Friday. He is scheduled to appear before Judge James P. Jones in U.S. District Court in Abingdon for a preliminary hearing Oct. 31.
As a result of the arrest, Pennington Gap Mayor D.R. Carter convened an emergency Town Council meeting early Monday afternoon to decide Young’s future with the department.
Carter formally suspended Young from his duties Friday but had to wait for the full Town Council to convene before further action could be taken.
In addition to firing Young — who served as police chief for approximately 15 months — the council voted to formally appoint Lt. Louis Mavredes as officer in charge of the Pennington Gap Police Department. Motions to advertise for a new police chief and have Lee County Sheriff Gary Parsons serve as an adviser in the hiring process also passed on unanimous votes.
Following the emergency meeting, Carter said Young’s arrest had shaken the trust residents have in the town’s police force and government.
“It’s especially bad when it’s a small town and drugs and things like that are involved because you lose trust in the people who are supposed to protect you,” Carter said. “Once you lose that trust, it’s hard for us as a council, or governing body, to get it back. So we have to build trust with our community, and the community also needs to help us get rid of this stuff. ... Instead of talking about it, they need to assist us to clean up our town.”
Carter said he hoped the council’s actions would be the first steps in the process of restoring credibility to the town’s institutions.
“We want to assure the public regarding this negative incident that the town is still well-staffed with current officers, and Sheriff Parsons and his staff will assist us...” Carter said. “Each member of the council, and myself, are striving to bring order back to the town and our community, and as always we want to continue to try and protect our citizens.”
Parsons said his office would assist the town in whatever way possible.
“One bad apple doesn’t mean the entire bale is rotten,” Parsons said. “We’re going to help them get this situation back in line, and they’ll still have service in Pennington, and everything will be taken care of. When they call, an officer will respond.”
Young’s arrest stemmed from a two-year joint investigation by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, ATF, FBI and the Southwest Virginia Drug Task Force.
Young was charged with possession of a firearm by a user of controlled substances, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, and possession of a Schedule II drug (Percocet) with intent to distribute.
An affidavit filed in federal court Friday linked Young and three other individuals to a burglary at the Rite Aid Pharmacy in Pennington Gap. According to the affidavit, over 5,400 oxycodone-based pills were taken during the Sept. 28 burglary, which was allegedly orchestrated by Young.
Information contained in the affidavit shows that Young had been under internal investigation by the Virginia State Police for suspected use of illicit drugs as early as March.
Court documents contain allegations that Young used and sold prescription narcotics on several occasions and that he was associated with individuals known for selling drugs.
Following his arrest, records show Young reportedly admitted to authorities that he used and sold prescription drugs that were allegedly taken during the pharmacy burglary.
The affidavit also alleges that he took counterfeit money, guns and illegal substances from the Pennington Gap Police Department’s evidence room.