ASHLAND, KY. -- A local United Mine Workers official and four other men were arrested yesterday in the 1985 sniper slaying of a nonunion coal truck driver during a 15-month labor dispute, officials said.
FBI spokesman Phil Doty identified the defendants, indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury, as Donnie Thornsbury, 35; David Thornsbury, 32; James Smith, 35, and Irvin Smith, 47, all of Canada in Pike County, and Arnold Heightland, 45, of Ohio. Donnie Thornsbury is president of UMW Local 2496 at Canada.
All face charges of damaging and disabling the coal truck driven by Hayes West, resulting in his death and damaging a coal truck driven by Royal L. Johnson, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Self in Lexington.
West, 35, was shot May 29, 1985, as he hauled coal on U.S. 119 in Pike County near the Kentucky-West Virginia line. Johnson, then 28, of Speight was injured in the sniping. West was hauling coal produced by Samoyed Energy Co., a nonunion company being picketed by the UMW.
He was shot near the scene of previous violent incidents involving striking miners and nonunion truckers hauling coal for companies that were negotiating contracts with the UMW. The incident occurred during the bitter strike against A.T. Massey Coal Co.
Massey President E. Morgan Massey cited the shooting when he canceled talks with the union. Legal disputes stemming from the 15-month-long strike remain in federal court.