Man accused of killing Big Stone Gap officer seen smiling in court Tuesday morning; trial date set

Crime

WISE, Va. (WJHL) — The man accused of killing Big Stone Gap Police Officer Michael Chandler on his 29th birthday is set to go to trial for felony murder and 12 other charges on April 11-15, 2022.

Michael Donivan White, 33, of Cross, South Carolina, appeared virtually in Wise County court Tuesday morning from the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail on charges of probation violation for two counts of grand larceny along with a new 13-count indictment.

A News Channel 11 crew was in the courtroom while Wise County General District Judge Ron Elkins listed off White’s charges. As his charges were read, the suspect appeared to yawn and was seen smiling. He described his probation violation charges as “the least of [his] worries.”

“You as a defendant did commit aggravated murder,” said Elkins. “That is a class one felony, and it carries mandatory life in prison.”

Elkins commented on White’s behavior during the hearing, warning the defendant that the case is a serious matter, to which White responded with “there ain’t much more you can do to me, man.”

White, who was appointed an attorney, requested a speedy trial; the dates set in April 2022 will cover all 13 charges, including felony murder and aggravated murder.

Another request from the defendant included a change of venue, but a judge said that matter must be further discussed with an attorney. White faces the following charges following the death of Officer Chandler on Nov. 13:

  • Aggravated murder
  • Felony murder
  • Possession of Schedule I/II Substances with Intent to Distribute
  • Possession of a Firearm while in Possession of Schedule I/II Substances
  • Shooting in Commission of Possession of Schedule I/II Substances
  • Shooting in Commission of Murder
  • Use of Firearm in Commission of Aggravated Murder
  • Possession of a Firearm by a Felon
  • Possession of Ammunition by a Felon
  • Brandishing a Firearm
  • Reckless Handling of Firearms
  • Discharging a Firearm in Public
  • Disorderly Conduct

White’s aggravated murder charge alone calls for a mandatory minimum punishment of life in prison, according to indictment documents.

His court-appointed attorney, Greg Baker out of Scott County, declined to comment at this time.

Tuesday morning, Big Stone Gap Police Chief Steve Hamm spoke for the first time since Chandler’s death and emphasized that the community wants those responsible for Chandler’s murder brought to justice.

“We’d like to see the person or people responsible for this prosecuted to the fullest extent,” Hamm said.

The chief remembered Chandler, who died while serving his community.

“He truly wanted to help and make a difference in his community,” Hamm said of Chandler. “He was the type of officer that any department wanted. Everybody knows the risk going into it, but you just don’t want to think here in small-town Southwest Virginia that can be the reality. But it is.”

On Nov. 13, Big Stone Gap Police Officer Michael Chandler was responding to a welfare check, according to a release from Virginia State Police (VSP).

VSP investigators said Chandler encountered “at least one individual” and was shot. When a Wise County Sheriff’s Office deputy arrived at the scene, Chandler was found unconscious in a ditch suffering from a gunshot wound.

Chandler was flown to Johnson City Medical Center, where he died from his injuries. Chandler is survived by his wife and daughter.

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