CAROLINE COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A deputy involved in a fatal shooting back in February has been cleared to return back to work after Caroline County’s Commonwealth’s Attorney John Mahoney determined his actions were justified.
Mahoney said he made his decision after reviewing and analyzing the investigation from Virginia State Police along with his own scene observations.
“I have determined that the Caroline County Sheriff’s Deputy was justified in the actions he took on Countyline Church Road on the night of February 1, 2021,” Mahoney said in a release.
Authorities and the victim’s family identified the man killed as 58-year-old Richard F. Thomas of Spotsylvania.
According to Mahoney, witnesses on the scene said they believed Thomas was intoxicated or suffering some sort of medical emergency before the shooting. The results for Thomas’ toxicology report are not available, however, the commonwealth’s attorney said they would “have no impact on the decision.”
Mahoney also said that those witnesses confirmed that Thomas claimed to have a .45 caliber pistol and was threatening to kill the witnesses and the two deputies on the scene. No gun was recovered from the victim’s car, authorities said.
The commonwealth’s attorney said that Thomas’ words and actions intended to convince the deputies and witnesses that he had a gun and was willing to shoot or cause serious harm.
A review of audio and video recording by Virginia State Police shows that Thomas was warned “approximately 45 times in various forms” before the deputy pulled the trigger.
In the release, Mahoney stated that “the positioning of the patrol vehicle that had an operating camera prevented the capturing of informative video, but the audio was clear”.
8News tried multiple times to obtain the audio, but was denied access.
Mahoney said the deputy believed his life and the lives of others were in danger.
“The deputy had every reason to believe that the decedent had a gun and was about to start firing before the deputy acted,” Mahoney said.
8News spoke with the victim’s wife Monday morning who said the decision is not right and justice was not served.
“They didn’t find a gun in the car and they still justified the man for shooting him,” Rachel Thomas said. “He was in the car, he was not outside the car. He didn’t attack nobody or wave a gun at nobody. I don’t care, his death certificate said gunshot wound to head and chest and that it was a homicide.”
Thomas’ family is currently waiting for autopsy results to come back. His wife of more than forty years shares with 8News that Thomas was ‘sick’. Rachel said her husband was complaining that he felt like someone was hitting him in the head with a baseball bat; going on to say he wasn’t himself.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Mahoney offered condolences to the Thomas family and said his heart goes out to the deputy involved.
As protocol, the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an internal administrative investigation.
Stay with 8News for updates.