NORTON, Va. (WJHL) – After a Friday afternoon shooting, the Norton community showed support for its police chief who is recovering from several gunshot wounds.
Police told News Channel 11 that Norton Police Chief James Lane’s parking spot remained vacant Monday morning when officers returned to the station with their leader still in the hospital.
“Chief’s role, he is our leader. It’s very, it’s a very sad time for us we’re missing our leader. We’re very concerned for him, everyone’s coming in asking for him, asking questions about him and our overall concern for his health and everything going on with him,” City of Norton Police Sgt. Justin Qualls said.
The police force already understaffed, took a hit in numbers with the chief hospitalized and two other officers off duty as part of Virginia State Police’s ongoing investigation.
“Anytime we have a investigation going on the officers are off for that. And we try to pick up the slack, obviously they’re not able to come in and perform their duties for their schedule and the rest of his try to come together, band together and pick up the slack,” Qualls explained. “Pending investigation because they were their on scene.”
The 16-person station has several vacancies on its team.
“Our attitude is to continue doing our job. Chief Lane would want that. He is very adamant about carrying on the mission and he has told me that several times. Anytime I meet with him, that’s his focus for us to carry on the mission and we’re going to do that for him. We are obviously concerned with him, I’ve actually been FaceTiming him. We have text messages, phone calls, Facebook messages, you wouldn’t believe the community support that we’ve received,” Qualls said.
The Norton community displayed their respect to the chief with donations of food and drinks to the police station. But the injured chief holds a special place in the hearts of the community, according to Norton City Council Member Robert Fultz, who has known Lane for over 30 years.
“He is just such a wonderful person, a great father, a great husband, and a great part of our community. He has always been known for his, his kindness his generosity, and his stability within the department before he was chief he’s just always been a great guy. I heard a story yesterday that before we had a school resource officer at the elementary school, he went to the energy school every day for seven years, and held the door open for the students so that they would feel safe as they went into the school. And that does sort of capsulate, the man that we know who is kind, considerate, aware of other people in other people’s situations, and he is certainly a beloved chief,” Fultz said.
The council member explained that Norton is still a safe place to live, even after Friday’s events.
“We’re all shocked, the community shot, the school or the city administration as well as the PD, they’re just shocked, shocked they would happen here, shocked they would happen to him because he is so even-tempered and just always interacts with people in such a positive way. So you always, you always think this will never happen here. It can never happen to us, and you certainly think it would never happen to Chief Lane,” he said.
Fultz said that the City of Norton has banded together, especially since the beginning of the pandemic.
“You know, when COVID first came on the scene nationally worldwide. One of the things that we did was we implemented a program in Norton called Norton strong, and it was, it was just to say that we’re in this together. We’re going to work together the city went to work immediately supporting businesses and trying to help people who are small business owners trying to find their way through this. And that’s we’re going to do in this we’re going to find a way to make it, we’re going to be Norton Strong,” he said.
Wise County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp told News Channel 11 his office will be prosecuting the accused shooter’s case once the suspect, James Buckland, is released from the hospital.
“Well, Mr. Buckland when he is released from the hospital, he will be then transported immediately into custody. I understand that law enforcement in Tennessee is standing by waiting to take care of that. And then I’ve signed extradition papers to have him extradited back to Virginia immediately to begin the prosecution of the case here,” Slemp explained.
As for the chief’s recovery, it’s safe to say, he’s missed as he recuperates.
“We’re thrilled to hear that he’s doing well our prayers continue to be with the chief and his family as he recovers, and we can’t wait to see him back on the job in Norton and we’ll be thrilled to work alongside him again,” Slemp added.