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Virginia police officer shot to death on his 29th birthday

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A Virginia police officer was shot to death on his 29th birthday while performing an early-morning welfare check. The suspected killer was later apprehended in another state.

Big Stone Gap Police officer Michael Chandler conducted a welfare check at a house in southwest Virginia around 4 a.m. on Saturday. The home was reportedly supposed to be abandoned, but he encountered "at least one individual" who shot Chandler.

A Wise County Sheriff's Office deputy arrived on the crime scene and found Chandler unconscious in a ditch along the driveway to the residence, officials said.

"His patrol car and another vehicle were both at the scene, but there was no other person at the scene," said Virginia State Patrol public information officer Corinne Geller, according to WTVR.

Chandler was airlifted to Johnson City Medical Center in Tennessee, where he died hours later on his 29th birthday.

"It is with a heavy heart that I must inform our community of the line of duty death of Officer Michael D. Chandler," Big Stone Gap police Chief Stephen Hamm said in a statement, according to WDBJ.

"His battle to survive today was truly miraculous. But, he succumbed to his injuries around 7:00 p.m. this evening at the hospital with his family at his side," Hamm continued. "Mike's loss will be felt by our town and across all of Wise County. Not only did he serve as an officer with the Town of Big Stone Gap Police Department, but also as a volunteer with the Big Stone Gap Fire Department."

"Please keep his family in your prayers tonight, as this should have been a day to celebrate his 29th birthday - not a day to mourn his passing," he concluded.

Following an "extensive" manhunt by local, state, and federal law enforcement, the suspect was apprehended 40 miles away. The Kingsport Police Department's Patrol Division, Criminal Investigations Division, and SWAT Team arrested a 33-year-old Big Stone Gap male around 8 p.m. on Saturday at a motel in Tennessee. The U.S. Marshals Service, FBI, Wise County Sheriff's Office, and Bristol, Virginia Police Department assisted in the apprehension of the suspected shooter.

The suspect was being held due to probation violations from South Carolina and Virginia.

Commonwealth Attorney Chuck Slemp said he expects "charges will be placed in the coming days."

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