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Ebert rules May 19 shooting by Manassas police officer justified

Prince William County Police Department reports that its investigation into the May 19 shooting involving Manassas City police officers at George Hellwig Memorial Park in Prince William County has been completed.

Upon reviewing the details of the investigation, Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert ruled the shooting was justified. Ebert serves Manassas, Manassas Park and Prince William County.

Ebert was quoted in a press release issue as saying, “In my opinion, the officers involved were in reasonable fear of death or serious harm when they used lethal force and therefore their actions were justified ”

Detectives from the Prince William County Police Department’s Violent Crimes Bureau conducted the criminal investigation into the shooting aspect of this incident. The investigation was reviewed by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office for a determination of criminal liability concerning the officers’ actions.

“In the interest of keeping the communities of Prince William County and Manassas City informed of significant incidents, further details of that incident and the Commonwealth Attorney’s ruling are being publicly released,” said Sgt. Jonathan Perok, spokesman for Prince William County Police Department.

On May 19, 2017 at 12:40 a.m., Prince William County Public Safety Communications Center (PSCC) received a 9-1-1 call from someone reporting that a suspect was firing a weapon from a vehicle in the area of Grant Ave in the City of Manassas.

When the public safety communicator learned the incident was occurring in Manassas City, the call was immediately transferred to Manassas dispatch for police response. The caller provided a description of the vehicle involved as a black Ford Explorer with tinted windows. Responding Manassas City police officers located the vehicle and attempted a traffic stop. The driver of the alleged suspect vehicle failed to stop and a pursuit was initiated which eventually entered Prince William County.

Prince William County police were notified of the pursuit at approximately 1:09 a.m. During the pursuit, a Manassas City police cruiser was struck by the fleeing vehicle. Perok said, “This is a correction from the previous release indicating two cruisers were struck.”

He went on to say that the pursuit continued to George Hellwig Memorial Park, located at 14420 Bristow Rd in Manassas, where the driver struck a tree and light post. The vehicle continued to a parking lot where the driver exited, leaving the vehicle in motion.

According to Perok’s news release about the incident, “During a confrontation with Manassas City officers, the driver brandished a weapon and pointed that weapon towards the officers. Two of the Manassas City police officers on scene fired their department-issued firearms towards the driver. The driver was struck multiple times to the upper and lower body. No Manassas City officers were injured during the pursuit or shooting.”

Perok went on to state that Prince William County officers were not involved in the pursuit and arrived on scene shortly after the shooting. Officers from both agencies rendered aid to the driver until Fire and Rescue personnel arrived. The driver was flown to an area hospital with serious injuries.

A firearm was recovered at the scene and was determined to be a BB-gun. A 15-year-old female juvenile was inside the vehicle at the time of the incident and was unharmed. The juvenile was later determined to be a runaway from the Woodbridge area and was reunited with her family.

During a preliminary review of the original 9-1-1 call made to Prince William County PSCC, detectives learned that the driver involved in the pursuit actually placed the initial shots fired call, prompting the police response by Manassas City police. During the call, the driver also provided a description of his own vehicle. No actual shooting was determined to have taken place in Manassas City.

Due to the location of the officer-involved shooting, the Prince William County Police Department assumed responsibility for investigating the criminal aspect of the shooting.

The driver was identified as Luis Daniel Torres Molina, 18, of Woodbridge and was charged by Manassas City police with one count of attempted malicious wounding of a law enforcement officer and one count of felony eluding. The accused has since been treated and remanded to the custody of the Prince William-Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center with a preliminary court date set for July 17, 2017.

Manassas City Police Chief Doug Keen was quoted in the press release as saying, “While our formal Internal Affairs investigation reviewing all aspects of this case is ongoing, it is clear from the investigations conducted by Prince William County Police, the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office and Manassas City Police that the officers acted appropriately and lawfully in their efforts to apprehend this potentially dangerous subject. Officers do not desire to use lethal force, but in these rare cases they must act quickly and decisively to protect themselves and the community. I am thankful that no residents or officers were harmed during this unfortunate incident.”

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