It took 19 hours for the Williamsburg Police Department and The York-Poquoson Sheriff’s office to tell the media one of YPSO’s deputies “accidentally” discharged his service weapon during a traffic stop.
“The PIOs didn’t get a notification until this morning,” John Heilman, public information officer and school resource officer of the Williamsburg Police Department, said late Friday afternoon.
Heilman said the police department was under the assumption YPSO was handling the investigation, and he received the information in the last couple of hours in order to prepare a news release.
“Our people though it was a York thing,” he said.
The sheriff’s office and police department each issued a news release within minutes of each other and neither mentioned the name of the deputy involved in the incident. The sheriff’s office new release indicated the deputy’s name will not be released pending the internal investigation.
Information from the agencies also did not identify the people who were pulled over.
At 5:51 p.m. Friday, Sam Jones, chairman of William & Mary Emergency Management Team, told college staff and students the people involved in the traffic stop are W&M law students.
“Thankfully our students are ok, but they are understandably scared and have questions,” Jones wrote. “The dean of the law school, representatives from student affairs, William & Mary Police and other senior administrators met with the students and their classmates this afternoon at the law school.”
“Since this matter occurred within city limits, the Williamsburg-James City County Commonwealth’s Attorney has asked Williamsburg Police to conduct an investigation into the incident,” Jones told the campus community. “York County is also completing its own internal review into the matter…”
At approximately 6:40 p.m. Thursday a sheriff’s deputy attempted to stop a sedan for not using headlights at the Advance Auto Parts on Merrimac Trail, the sheriff’s office said. The deputy “accidentally” discharged his firearm when the driver’ door swung open and the bullet ricocheted off the ground and hit the lower part of the driver’s door, the sheriff’s office said. No one was injured.
According to the police department’s version, officers were called the 400 block of Merrimac Trail in reference to “shots fired” and were told a sheriff’s deputy had “accidentally” discharged his firearm.
The sheriff’s deputy tried to stop a grey Honda sedan for a traffic violation and once the vehicle stopped, the driver started getting out the car.
The deputy ordered the driver to get back into the vehicle, drew his weapon and a round was discharged, hitting the driver’s side door, police said. No was injured.
An internal investigation is being conducted, but a statement from Sheriff JD “Danny” Diggs seemed to have concluded the weapon discharge to be “accidental.”
“Anything than a less than perfect response regarding an interaction between police and citizens is something that should be reviewed. This was an unfortunate accident with no malice or ill intent towards the occupants of the vehicle. Thankfully no one was injured in this event. We understand how an accidental discharge like this can have an impact on the community and we would like to express our sincerest apology to anyone who has been negatively impacted by this.”
The sheriff’s deputy is on paid administrative leave, said Shelley Ward, spokeswoman for the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office.
Ward kept referring WYDaily to the news release when asked why the sheriff’s office and the police department sent out two versions and what happened to the driver who was pulled over for a traffic violation.
Ward referred to the sheriff’s statement when asked whether the Diggs’s statement concluding the incident as an “accidental” discharge appears to have undermined the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident, and the internal probe.
“The only information I can give you is what is in the release,” she said.
The Williamsburg Police Department is currently investigating and anyone who witnessed the incident is asked to call 757-259-7206.