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Posted: 3/8/2002 6:12:31 AM EDT
This happened right down the street from me, as reported on [url]http://www.chopperguy.net/~bikernews/news/jan_24.html [/url]: January 24, 2002 Powhatan Officer will not be charged January 24, 2002 - Virginia After a 3 month investigation of the shooting of Gary Groves by Officer Randy Reynolds of the Powhatan Sheriffs Department, Commonwealth's attorney Robert B. Beasley Jr. said criminal charges will not be filed. "After a full and thorough review of all the evidence in this matter, it appears that the shooting was the result of an accidental discharge of the deputy's weapon," Beasley said during a press conference Jan. 23. "There is no evidence that a criminal act was committed by the deputy." Gary Groves, age 21, while returning home from a Chesterfield County restaurant died hours after being shot between the eyes after midnight on October 7th. A lawyer for the family of Gary Groves, promised a vigorous civil investigation that could result in a federal suit stemming from Groves' death. "We are pleased that the investigation has reached this point; it gives the family some closure," said J. Thompson Cravens, who represents Groves' parents. Beasley stressed that, as Commonwealth's Attorney, it is his duty to determine only whether a criminal action had occurred, and not whether civil liability would be attached. Beasley went on to say that the officers "acted in accordance with their training". From the start, information on the incident has been inconsistent. Initial reports claimed officer Reynolds initiated a traffic stop on Rt. 60 in Powhatan. Groves failed to stop and a chase ensued reaching speeds of nearly 100 mph down Red Lane, then Mill road and ended at the intersection of Judes Ferry. Initial medical reports at the hospital stated the Groves died of a self inflicted gunshot wound. Beasley described the incident as a high-speed chase of Groves and a passenger on Groves' motorcycle. Two patrol cars closed in on the motorcycle as it traveled at speeds reaching 76 mph down rural roadways leading north off of U.S. Route 60, about one and a half miles west of Flat Rock. The patrol cars hemmed in the motorcycle when it apparently attempted to make a U-turn near the intersection of Judes Ferry and Mill roads, Beasley said. He said that while one deputy overtook the passenger, the second deputy withdrew his weapon and ordered Groves to "let me see your hands." "At this point, the deputy's firearm discharged," Beasley said in a news release. It quoted two witnesses in a nearby house as saying they heard a single shot and a voice shout words to the effect of, "The . . . thing just went off." "We checked with the Sheriff's Department, and it was part of their training to draw their guns after a chase like that," Beasley said. An investigation into the shooting revealed that there was no malfunction within the officer's gun, a .40 caliber automatic Glock, and that all of the weapon's safety features were operating properly.
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 6:13:15 AM EDT
According to Groves' passenger Marshall Johnston, there was no chase. Johnston said he and Groves were riding on U.S. 60 going about 60 mph when they saw a police car coming up from behind. Johnston said he thought the police car was following the car in front of them. He said the officer followed the motorcycle to Red Lane, where another patrol car began to follow the pair. Johnston said he realized the police cars were pursuing them when the car in front of them pulled over and the officers didn't. When the motorcycle reached Mill Road where police sources say Deputy Reynolds turned on his blue lights, Johnston said he tapped Groves to notify him of the police cars. Johnston said he believed they were going to stop once Groves realized the police were following them. But, Johnston said, that area of Mill Road was a back road with no shoulder or painted lines. "We could either stop in the middle of the street or pull into someone's driveway," he said. Johnston said Groves continued to the intersection of Jude Ferry and Mill roads, where he stopped the motorcycle. The first patrol car pulled in front of the motorcycle causing the front tire of the motorcycle to tap the fender of the patrol car. One cruiser ended up in front of the motorcycle and the other pulled in on the right side of the bike. He said Groves took his feet off the pedals and steadied the bike with both hands on the handlebars. Then, Johnston said, he heard a shot and the bike fell to the left, knocking both riders to the ground. "I don't believe it was an accident," said Johnston. " . . . Gary had his hands on the handlebars, the officer had no reason to pull his gun." "We showed no weapons, never yelled, we did nothing." There is no audio or video available of the chase or the shooting itself, according to Beasley. One of the officers attempted to turn on his video camera, but was unsuccessful in recording any images. According to Beasley, the cameras that the police cars are equipped with must be powered up and then a button must be pushed to record. The officer reportedly pushed the power button, but did not push the record button in sufficient time before the camera automatically shut itself off. Powhatan Sheriff Lynn Woodcock said he has not determined whether the deputy, who has been on the force for three years, will be cleared to return to the 33-officer department. "I haven't read the state police report myself," he said. Woodcock said the shooting apparently was the first in the county in memory in which a deputy fired the fatal shot. He said there have been no other reports of accidental discharges using the weapon, and the officer's only previous firearms discharges on duty had been to dispatch a wounded animal. Cravens stated that Grove's parents had not yet said whether they would file a civil suit against Reynolds.
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 6:24:40 AM EDT
I live in Powhatan County very close to where this happened. I would like to state that the Powhatan Sheriff's department is an upstanding organization, and they are as much on "our side" as anybody can be. I know Lynn and most of the other officers in the department - they are not at all militant. We are a small, rural area, and this has shaken a lot of people. I can confirm the videocamera information - they carry Sony camcorders (like the kind you get from Circuit City). They are mounted on the dash, but you must turn them on and then push the record button. If it is "on" but not recording, it will go into sleep mode, and not begin recording when the record button is pushed. The deputies do typically carry Glock 40's as mentioned. I do not think they routinely install New York triggers or other enhanced triggers in their firearms. I do know that they wear gloves at the time of year this happened. As you all know, the only safety on a Glock is in the trigger. A gloved hand could easily have engaged the safety bar without knowing it. I'll have to try shooting my Glock with gloves and see what happens. I want to state very clearly, I think this was an accident. I see many incidents (like the FBI shooting in MD) that are obviously abuse of power - I don't think that is the case here. I am not affiliated with the department, although I know many of them. They are not used to high-speed chases, armed robberies, etc. It appears proper trigger discipline was not exercised (keep finger off trigger until ready to fire) - probably due to adrenaline. I walk away from this incident with this - keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire. Train like you work. Holstering and readying a firearm are extremely dangerous. I'll bring this up at the next General Assembly meeting when they're discussing storing firearms in cars at restaurants. Even small towns have incidents like this. I grieve for the family that lost their son, and hope all involved can come to peace with what happened. Black Fox
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 6:26:04 AM EDT
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 6:41:27 AM EDT
Is there any evidence to indicate the range at which the shooting happened?
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 6:47:29 AM EDT
Accident - Maybe. Accidential discharge - No Such Thing. If there was a chase the adrenaline levels of all those concerned were probably skyrocketing - appears that this combined with the departments policy of drawing a weapon after a high speed chase resulted in a negligent discharge. Draws weapon, gloves reduce feel of the trigger safety bar, adrenaline level increases strength and decreases sensativity. Bang! Sad, but probably not the officier's fault. Policy should be reviewed, if drawing weapon is standard then it shouldn't be pointed at a subject that has shown no hostile intent (running is not hostile nor an admission of guilt - it is part of a natural fight or flight response). Ryan
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 6:52:04 AM EDT
While the agency may be filled with a good bunch of guys, the officer was responsible for the death of a citizen through careless gun handling. I agree with the Commonwealth's Attorney and don't beleive it was on purpose. It may point to a lack of training by the department, and certainly to a lack of skill by the deputy. He killed a man that didn't need killing, even if it was "just and accident". I'm sure it will haunt him for the rest of his days. But the victim has no "rest of his days". There's always a cause to any fatal accident. Guns don't go off by themselves. Anyway you cut it, the deputy caused this one. Of course down here in Hampton Roads they choke you to death or fill you full of holes on purpose, then claim it was a misunderstanding. Ross
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 6:57:48 AM EDT
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 6:59:14 AM EDT
I basically agree with you guys - accident, but possibly not negligent on the officer's part (enough to charge criminally). I know of similar non-LEO cases here in Virginia that proceeded similarly (no criminal charges). I agree that policy should not be to draw and POINT weapon at suspect who is not immediately threatening life or a fleeing felon who would pose danger to community. Low ready offers a great deal of safety while little compromise on officer's safety. A whole lot of LEO's point firearms at people who are not posing threat (you've all seen Elian Gonzales picture) - this is not a local thing. This is bound to happen. If a non-LEO did this, it would be brandishing. I feel like you, Ross. I imagine Deputy Reynolds life is over, but can't feel too sorry for him when thinking of Mr. Groves. Tough incident. Black Fox
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 7:10:03 AM EDT
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 7:11:32 AM EDT
HE commited manslaughter. End of story. If any of us accidentially discharged our glocks and killed someone we would be in jail. Officer screwed up IT IS HIS FAULT. Basic safety says don't put your finger on the triger unless your ready to use it. His negligence in this caused a death, he is still responsible. There are no such things as accidents. NEVER. Its not murder because no intent can be proven. Maybe the guy should die for running from the police in the first place. But there is no accident, it might be negligent but not an accident. Improper use resulted in death, someone is at fault.
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 8:17:19 AM EDT
Its the officier's fault. He drew his weapon, aimed it at the suspect, and (maybe unintentionally) pulled trigger. The report states there was nothing wrong with the weapon, therefore it fired because the trigger was pulled. NO EXCUSES FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT.
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 8:30:30 AM EDT
There are no such things as accidents. NEVER.
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I disagree. Accidents do happen. In my opinion, the difference between an accident and a case of negligence is the degree of prudence exercised by the person responsible. If you do things right and things go bad anyway, that's an accident. If you act carelessly and the predictable outcome occurs, that's negligence. Having said that, I do think that this incident is more likely a case of negligent discharge than an accident.
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 8:31:09 AM EDT
So these cops can't properly operate camcorders or their duty guns, and killing people is OK, as long as it an "accident". Somehow I don't think I would get the same treatment if I killed my wife or kids or a cop by accident. Absolutely sickening.
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 8:37:41 AM EDT
The most important thing, though, is that the officers got to go home safely to their families.
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 8:44:10 AM EDT
Originally Posted By Golgo-13: The most important thing, though, is that the officers got to go home safely to their families.
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I was wondering who would put this obligatory post in....lemme know when it's my turn. [:D]
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 8:49:08 AM EDT
Originally Posted By ECS: Its the officier's fault. He drew his weapon, aimed it at the suspect, and (maybe unintentionally) pulled trigger. The report states there was nothing wrong with the weapon, therefore it fired because the trigger was pulled. NO EXCUSES FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT.
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ECS, I'm so in your corner! It would not be a valid excuse for you or I. We would be charged. Same holds true for LE. I'm with ECS till the end on this one.
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 9:02:22 AM EDT
What about requiring 15-lb triggers on all Glocks? That would fix the problem.
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 9:29:09 AM EDT
I understand where most of you are coming from. In Virginia, we have hunting accidents and accidental shootings every year. A guy is in the woods across the field from his friend. His friend crosses the field to get a drink, and his buddy shoots him (mistaking him for a deer). Typically, he is not held criminally negligent, but can be sued by victim's family. Same for guy who's cleaning his rifle in his den and forgets to check chamber. Round exits his house and kills teenager next door. Again, not usually charged with criminal negligence, but held liable. I'm a big proponent of holding people responsible. I also believe in consistency. In Virginia, I feel the approach was relatively consistent with a non-LEO accidental shooting. I do NOT believe LEO's should aim loaded weapons at other citizens unless they or other people are in immenent, otherwise unavoidable danger. This policy (to protect officer's lives) is a large contributor to this accident. Black Fox
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 10:48:36 AM EDT
Police state, police state, police state. Here in NC it is now nearly a daily occurrence--a black man is pulled over for no reason and he gets pissed off so he takes a gun out and tries to shoot a cop. The last couple were a success--cop was either killed or injured. The most recent one, the victim (the black motorist that is) fired and missed, officer returned fire, victim ran off and disappeared into some woods. Cops never caught him. I've said it before and I'll say it again--people don't like being shaken down and they will begin to resist the pressure this police state is putting on them. The powers that be had better back off or we're going to have even more unrest here. The funny thing is that the tv news always portrays the cop as the hero and the actual victim as the criminal. As if the guy who got pulled over is some gun-happy lunatic out to attack the public--they even told local residents to "lock their doors, there is a man with a gun on the loose." Ha! That man was not going to try to hurt anyone except his tormentors--the police. And more power to him.
Link Posted: 3/8/2002 11:00:41 AM EDT
That man was not going to try to hurt anyone except his tormentors--the police. And more power to him.
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So getting hassled by "the man" is a good reason to kill someone? [>:/]
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