Carter says fleeing driver should have been in jail
WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter said Friday the harrowing chase south on Interstate 81 two days earlier served as a stark reminder of the need for some mentally troubled individuals to be confined in a facility where they would be less of a threat to themselves and others.
The defendant, William Walter Grim Jr., 60, of Toms Brook, has had numerous run-ins with law enforcement that should have served as a warning that he was headed toward a potentially tragic confrontation with someone, somewhere, Carter said.
Records in Shenandoah County’s circuit and general district courts show only a few minor charges against Grim until a few days ago. But his file in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, only part of which is open to the public, is well over an inch thick.
“If you look at his history and history with law enforcement and contact with the judicial system, criminal and civil, any person can see there’s a problem,” Carter said. “There’s a person in crisis here, and this is getting bad.”
Carter said Grim should not have been able to leave the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail on a $4,000 secured bond Tuesday. Grim had been jailed on misdemeanor arrest warrants issued in connection with accusations that he threatened Judge Kevin Black of the Shenandoah County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
Carter contended the chase could have been prevented if Magistrate Leilani Monahan had agreed to issue felony arrest warrants against Grim for the offenses he allegedly committed against Black. A deputy asked for felony warrants, but Monahan chose to make the warrants for misdemeanors, Carter said.
Grim was arrested shortly thereafter, but the decision to limit the warrants against him to misdemeanors made it easier for the defendant to make bail shortly after he was taken into custody, Carter said.
Monahan could not be reached for comment.
Carter insisted he was not criticizing Monahan’s decision. Instead, Carter said, the events before and during the chase highlight the need to do something about individuals whose mental health problems lead to repeated encounters with members of law enforcement and the public that can quickly turn violent.
On Wednesday, investigators with the Sheriff’s Office, still worried about what they regarded as Grim’s erratic behavior now that he was out on bond, exercised a second option. They asked Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp to replace the misdemeanor charges against him with a felony capias. The capias amounted to authorization to arrest Grim on two felonies – obstructing a judge in his duties and violation of a protective order. The protective order was issued after Grim’s wife complained that he had been stalking her and making unwanted phone calls earlier this month.
Carter said the intervention by the investigators and Hupp opened a path to taking Grim into custody for an extended period of time.
“I’m not trying to point fingers,” Carter said, “but in my mind the system failed, but then it recovered, and it recovered because other people got personally involved, and they thought there’s more to this than we initially had.”
Carter conceded that jails are not designed for involuntary commitment of the mentally ill or treatment of psychiatric disorders, but Grim’s behavior posed a danger to public safety that could not be ignored.
“At least he’s in the system,” Carter said of Grim. “There are some programs and resources that can be made available to someone. They’re out of public contact. They’re out of that escalation with law enforcement.”
The chase began hours later after law enforcement officials from Shenandoah County and New Market sought to arrest Grim in the parking lot of a convenience store in New Market.
Members of the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office broke off the chase in the midst of heavy rain, thunder, lightning and traffic traveling as slow as 40 mph on I-81 in the early evening.
Law enforcement accounts describe a chase that included deputies firing shots at the wheels of Grim’s car and Grim driving his car back and forth ramming police cruisers after he had pulled off the road.
Authorities say Grim was finally cornered along the side of the road and fell to the ground after a deputy shot him with a Taser.
Grim is scheduled to appear at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Shenandoah County General District Court where he faces charges of eluding police and assault on a law enforcement officer, both felonies, and obstructing justice and driving too fast for conditions, two misdemeanors.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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