The Williamsburg-James City County commonwealth’s attorney received the Williamsburg Police report about the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s deputy who fired his gun during a traffic stop that involved two William & Mary law students.
“I will now review his (WPD investigator Mark Mahoney) report and all the body camera footage,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Nate Green.
The report was given to his office Wednesday morning.
Green said he hopes to finish going through the full report by the end of the week.
There are two scenarios, Green said:
The unidentified deputy can be found liable for negligence which doesn’t necessarily amount to a crime. Here, the deputy would receive consequences from the sheriff’s office.
Or if evidence points to something more, the deputy can be charged with gross negligence, which shows disregard for human life, Green said. Here, the deputy could be charged in court.
“If it was intentional then it has to be justifiable. For example, if the officer believed his life was in danger and fired his weapon to protect himself, I would be reviewing whether that belief was reasonable or not,” Green said. “If the gun was fired not intentionally, but accidentally, then the question is was the cause of the accident negligence or gross negligence. Gross negligence is performing an act with disregard for human life.”
Green said from his understanding, the deputy “claims he did not intentionally fire his weapon.”
“Assuming there is no evidence that the officer intentionally fired his weapon, the inquiry will be into whether the officer’s conduct at the time the weapon accidentally was fired was negligent or whether the conduct meets a definition of gross negligence,” Green said. “If the conduct was simply negligent then a criminal charge would not be appropriate. If the conduct was done without regard for human life, then it would be gross negligence and a criminal charge would be appropriate.”
York-Poquoson Sheriff J. D. “Danny” Diggs declined to name the deputy. The deputy was placed on paid administrative leave.
On Feb. 21 at approximately 6:40 p.m. a sheriff’s deputy attempted to stop a light-grey colored Honda sedan for not having headlights on in the 400 block of Merrimac Trail, according to a news release from the Williamsburg Police Department.
Police said the driver started to get out of the vehicle and the deputy instructed the driver to get back into the vehicle an drew his weapon which fired, ricocheted off the ground and hit the driver’s side door.
According to the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office version, the incident happened at the entrance of Parkway Apartments on Merrimac Trail.
But Kendall Grierson, a resident of the apartment complex, said the incident occurred in the parking lot in front of the leasing office inside the apartment complex.
Suzanne Clavet, spokeswoman for the college, declined to release the names of the two students involved, citing privacy reasons.
WYDaily repeatedly contacted Clavet since it was unclear if a record of the students interaction with the school following the incident was documented. Clavet responded in multiple emails before calling WYDaily.
WYDaily also contacted Davison Douglas, dean of the law school, who left for China Saturday morning and is expected to be back in the office next Thursday. Patricia Roberts, vice dean of the college’s law school, would neither “confirm or deny” the students’ identities.
Brian Whitson, William & Mary’s chief communication officer said in part in an email correspondence: “In terms of any documentation, in any situation where the administration is working with students and providing support and resources, we would document the incident and response.”
WYDaily reached out to the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office who confirmed the incident occurred at the entrance to Parkway Apartments. Shelley Ward, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office responded to WYDaily in an email and didn’t return WYDaily’s phone calls.
The sheriff’s office also declined to release the body camera footage since, they said, it is “considered criminal investigative information under the Freedom of Information Act,” Ward said.
WYDaily also reached out to Williamsburg Police for comment.
When WYDaily called the police department the first time, a reporter was told to refer questions related to the “firearm discharge” incident to the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office. The second time WYDaily called, another dispatcher said John Heilman, a public information officer for the office, would handle WYDaily’s questions.
After repeated phone calls and voicemails to Heilman, he responded in an email asking WYDaily to send questions via email since he was ‘tied up’ at James Blair Middle School.
WYDaily asked about the year, make, model and color of the vehicle involved, the present location of the vehicle, what the department’s investigation concluded and if the case was submitted to the commonwealth’s attorney’s office.
The police department did not immediately comment.