Medical examiner: Big Stone Gap officer shot cousin, committed suicide

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Investigators believe the police officer involved in a murder-suicide last weekend killed his cousin before killing himself.

Police found the bodies of Big Stone Gap police officer Bailey Smith and his cousin, Emeri Connery, inside a truck along U.S. 23 in Lee County last weekend. Both had gunshot wounds.

The Virginia Medical Examiner office believes Smith shot Connery in the head before turning the gun on himself.

No other details about the investigation have been released.

March 12th Update
Police are investigating the deaths of a Big Stone Gap police officer and his cousin as a murder-suicide.

According to Virginia State Police, 21-year-old Bailey Smith and his cousin 26-year-old Emeri Connery were shot from within the vehicle their bodies were found in early Sunday morning.

VSP says there is no evidence indicating another vehicle or individual was involved in the incident.

Investigators found their bodies inside a 2015 GMC pickup truck along Highway 23 in Lee County. VSP says the truck had run off the left side of the road and into the median. Both had gunshot wounds.

On Monday morning, the flag outside the Big Stone Gap Police Department was at half staff.

People from the community brought in food for officers who are mourning the loss of a co-worker.

For Lawson, it's a loss that hits home.

"He would have done the job for free and you know, it's just instant tears and it really affects you, it affects our whole community."

Investigators with Virginia State Police were back on scene Monday afternoon.

"My police chief informed me about 6 o'clock that I needed to come to the scene, that there was a possibility that one of the passengers was one of our officers," Lawson said.

For those who knew Officer Smith for years, like family friend Shug Hall, this loss is heartbreaking.

"The biggest thing that I personally will miss is that big grin," Smith said. "He didn't know a stranger here, where he grown up. He could just mingle with the people and connect, he was just awesome. He was an awesome addition to our police force here in town."

Lawson says the family of Bailey Smith will receive visitors at Union High School from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday. The visitation will be open to the public.

On Thursday, a procession will depart Gilliam Funeral Home in Big Stone Gap at 11 a.m. A private graveside service will follow.

Original Story
Virginia State Police officials have identified the two people found dead with gunshot wounds inside a car early Sunday morning as man and a woman.

Earlier Sunday, VSP confirmed with WJHL TV that those two individuals were found dead inside a vehicle on Route 23 in Lee County around 4 a.m.

The Coalfield Progress newspaper quoted Big Stone Gap Town Manager Stephen Lawson as saying the man was Big Stone Gap police officer Bailey Smith.

The paper went on to report that Smith had been with the department since January 2018.

In an updated news release Sunday night, VSP added that they were both taken to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Roanoke for autopsy and examination.

We're told the incident is still under investigation.

Anyone with information related to this incident is encouraged to call the Virginia State Police at 276-228-3131 or email

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