‘It’s over’: Law enforcement officials react to suicide of accused officer killer

Weekday broadcast of WYMT Mountain News at 11
Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 8:46 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 28, 2023 at 1:18 PM EST
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FLOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - The man accused of killing three officers and a police K-9 during an ambush-style shooting has died in prison, Floyd County Sheriff John Hunt confirms Tuesday morning.

Hunt confirmed to WYMT Lance Storz died by suicide in the Pike County Detention Center.

Man accused of killing several Ky. police officers commits suicide

Floyd County Attorney Keith Bartley also confirmed the incident and told our sister station WSAZ “It’s a cowardly way out by a coward in every sense of the word.”

Hunt said the news of Storz’ death came as a surprise, and his suicide carries a host of mixed feelings.

“Somewhat relieved for that: for those family members, widows, and the children of their loved ones who don’t have to go through the long trial, hear the details, and then years later relive it again,” Hunt said. “And these cases, it seems like they never go away. Death penalty cases or whatever, 30 years down the road you’re still having some kind of hearings come up and they have to go back. So, for those people, I’m happy.”

But, he said, there are many people who were waiting for a moment to look Storz in the eye and see justice served, like deputy Darrin Lawson, who was shot and injured during the ambush and recently received a prosthetic after losing his leg to amputation.

“He’ll never have to face his crimes. Ever. The things that he did that day...he’ll never see his day in court,” Lawson said. “And that’s what I’m more angry about than anything. He got off easy.”

“But there’s another side. You take a wounded deputy who’s got a leg, forever, that will remind him. Who wanted to look this guy in the eye and see who did it to him,” said Hunt. “He’s never seen him. He wanted to see who this monster was. This coward that hid behind a door and just ambushed them. He wanted his moment in court to ask questions or probably just tell him what he thought of him. Again, he’s been denied that.”

He said the actions of Storz, from that night in June to his last breath, showed no regard for anyone other than himself. He believes the accused murderer decided to die by suicide instead of facing the people his actions have forever impacted. He says the true cowardice wasn’t in the act of suicide, but in the answers the community will never get.

“Another coward act by this guy to deny these people that right,” said Hunt.

Hunt says the Pikeville Police Department is still working on the exact details of the case and awaiting an autopsy. But he hopes this will allow those impacted to put some things to rest.

“Our opinions of him and what we say doesn’t carry in to his family. We are obviously in thoughts of his family. I don’t know his family, but I understand he has a child and I would never want my child to be held accountable for what I did. And we don’t do that,” Hunt said. “Our opinions and reflections upon what we think or what has happened- it’s strictly for him. And we’re on sorrow for his family as much as we are our own.”

The sheriff hopes the healing for some can begin now.

“Yeah. You can say it’s over now,” Lawson added. “But, you know, it’s not gonna be over for everybody else. It’s over for him. But it’s not over for me and it’s not over for the other families that never got to say what they wanted to say. So, now we’re just stuck here. Holding our words.”

“I hope that everybody can say, ‘this is it’ and close the book. Whether justice was served? Would have been. Got what some wished for,” Hunt said. “Whatever the case, it’s over. June 30 will always be remembered. We’ll not speak his name from here on. We’ll close that book with him in it and we’ll carry on our memories.”

“I’m not sad. It’s all...it’s just anger,” Lawson added. “I can’t put into words how mad I am at the fact that this is how it got to end. ‘Cause it shouldn’t have ended this way.”

You can read more about the shooting here.