Deputy cleared in man’s shooting death

Video and audio recordings were the key evidence in a prosecutor’s decision that a fatal shooting by a Frederick County Sheriff’s Deputy was justifiable self-defense.

Frederick County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ross Spicer said Tuesday he would file no charges against the deputy, Brian Thomas, in the April 3 death of Christopher Prevatt at Prevatt’s home in the Regency Lakes subdivision.

Spicer said a recording of a 911 call and a video taken from Thomas’ body camera showed clearly the circumstances leading up to the moment when Prevatt came at Thomas with a knife in each hand. Thomas shot Prevatt four times as Prevatt lunged at him from about a foot away, Spicer said.

“I think anyone who can see that video, especially if they watch it a few times, can see how clear and necessary it was for the deputy’s action to protect himself from harm,” Spicer said.

The Sheriff’s Office called the Virginia State Police to conduct an investigation after the shooting, a standard procedure when a local law enforcement officer kills someone.

The investigation, as recounted in a news release issued by Spicer earlier Tuesday, found that the incident began with a 911 call at 4:43 p.m. from a woman who shared a child with Prevatt. The woman was crying throughout the 911 call and asked for help in removing Prevatt from the residence they shared.

The woman stated that Prevatt was drunk and threatening her, the news release reported. She also told the dispatcher that Prevatt had what she described as a double-edged dragon letter opener that he was hiding behind a pillow on a couch where he was sitting.

The news release states the 911 recording ended as Thomas knocked on the door of the residence, but his body camera continued to provide a visual and audio record of what happened after his arrival, the news release states.

Prevatt had the knife in his hand, but briefly put it down at Thomas’ order. Prevatt then picked up the knife again and ignored another order from Thomas to relinquish the knife, the news release states.

Prevatt approaches Thomas with the knife and Thomas draws his gun, points it at Prevatt and “repeatedly tells him to put the weapon down,” the news release states.

The news release continues:

“During this exchange, Mr. Prevatt is advancing on the deputy while the deputy backs up. Mr. Prevatt is heard repeatedly asking the deputy, ‘What are you going to do? What are you going to do now?’ Mr. Prevatt then backs up approximately one foot. The camera then captures Mr. Prevatt changing his grip on the knife in his right hand to a position which would enable him to stab the deputy using an over handed motion. The deputy is heard saying, ‘Stop. Do not do anything stupid.’ Approximately one second later, Mr. Prevatt lunges at the deputy. At this time, with Mr. Prevatt approximately one foot away from the deputy, the deputy fires his weapon four times in quick succession. Mr. Prevatt is heard groaning and falls back to the floor. The deputy then reported shots fired to his dispatcher.”

Spicer said video recording made the case easier to investigate than many fatal shootings by law enforcement officers.

“It’s almost like watching a movie,” Spicer said. “You don’t have to rely on imperfect memories and skewed perceptions. You get it right there without any debate or controversy.”

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com