Prosecutor says they acted properly in confrontation with knife-wielding man
By Joe Beck - firstname.lastname@example.org
Four law enforcement officers involved in the shooting death of a knife-wielding Woodstock man acted properly and will face no charges, Shenandoah County Commonwealth's Attorney Amanda Wiseley said Friday.
Wiseley said she made her decision after reviewing the results of an investigation by Virginia State Police into the incident that left William Henry Long, 34, of Woodstock dead late on the night of July 20. Police were called to the scene to answer a complaint about a man threatening people with a knife, she said.
Long slashed Deputy Tom Frazier across the neck with a knife as Frazier and three Woodstock officers attempted to subdue him on the front porch of 330 Shaffer St., according to police accounts of the incident. Frazier then fired two shots into Long's upper chest as the struggle continued, authorities said.
"Mr. Long was repeatedly given commands to drop the knife," Wiseley said. "He was fighting the officers. He would not drop the knife. He continued to struggle with the officers."
Wiseley said video footage from body cameras worn by two of the Woodstock officers helped her quickly conclude that the police acted properly. Frazier was about an arm's length from Long when he fired at him, Wiseley said.
She said Frazier's cut extended along one side of his neck and required several stitches to close after he was taken to Shenandoah Memorial Hospital.
Two Woodstock officers were also injured, she said. Heath Painter was cut on the arm and Matt Rhodes suffered damaged hearing from Frazier's gun discharging close to his head, Wiseley said.
She said attempts to stop Long with Tasers - one by Rhodes and the other by Frazier - proved ineffective.
Sheriff Timothy C. Carter called the incident a tragedy, but said Frazier and the three Woodstock officers were left with no other choices to protect themselves and members of the public in the immediate area.
Carter said Frazier, who was released from the hospital within hours after the incident, could have been injured far more seriously had his head been in a slightly different position when he was cut.
"There's no doubt in my mind that he came within an inch of losing his life," Carter said.
The four officers who struggled with Long were facing a man who was 6-feet tall and 180 pounds, according to records in Wiseley's office. Asked why four officers had trouble subduing Long before he pulled the knife, Carter and Proctor said the officers were trying to follow the policy of using no more force than necessary to bring a suspect under control.
"We're using force, but we're not fighting, we're restraining," Proctor said.
"We're basically trying to get compliance, to get the situation under control," Carter added.
Carter said the fatal shooting was the first involving a deputy from his department since October 1996.
Carter and Woodstock Police Chief Eric Reiley said all of those involved in the shooting had resumed regular duties after the completion of internal investigations within their agencies.
"It's a tragic situation," Reiley said. "An officer never wants to be put in that situation, Our sympathies go out to the family of the victim."