Prince William County’s Commonwealth’s Attorney says officers had a right to open fire, as they were afraid for their lives.
MANASSAS-Prince William County police officers did the right thing when they shot a suicidal 79-year-old man earlier this month. Commonwealth’s Attorney Amy Ashworth handed down that decision on Monday. Ashworth said she felt the officers’ actions were justified, after her office conducted a multi-week investigation.
The shooting happened Dec. 10, as officers were called out to a home in the 3600 block of Secret Grove Court in Dumfries. At 7:14 p.m., Prince William County’s Public Safety Communications Center got a 911 call. The caller said her husband threatened suicide. Before officers arrived, 79-year-old Kurtis Kay Frevert walked out of the house and headed toward the nearby woods, armed with a handgun. Officers arrived and found Frevert in the woods around 7:50 p.m., according to the police report. They stayed back, but Frevert had noticed the activity and went walking back to his house.
The report says officers followed and everyone met at the front porch of Frevert’s home. As Frevert still had a gun, officers asked him to drop it. According to Ashworth’s report, Frevert “raised his gun at the officers while walking towards them and saying ‘shoot me’.”
At that point, five Prince William County officers fired their weapons, shooting and killing Frevert. A statement from the department said they opened fire “in response to the threat of the firearm being pointed towards them.”
Officers called Fire & Rescue to the scene, where they treated Frevert. Doctors pronounced him dead after his arrival at a local hospital. The police acknowledged while shooting at Frevert, stray bullets also hit a nearby home. There were no injuries, however.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Defines Self-Defense
In her report, Ashworth wrote the shootings were justified because they fell under self-defense.
“Each of the officers expressed that they believed either they, individually, were in danger of being killed or that the other officers present were in danger of being shot or killed,” Ashworth wrote. “The decedent’s actions in walking toward the officers with his arm raised and a gun in his hand aimed at the officers left the officers no alternative but to use deadly force.”
While the commonwealth’s attorney acknowledged that Frevert never fired his weapon, she said it’s not important if an actual danger exists. A self-defense claim can be used based on perception.
“It is not essential to the right of self-defense that the danger should in fact exist,” Ashworth wrote. “If it reasonably appears to the person using “deadly force” that a danger to life exists, he has the right to defend against it to the same extent, and under the same rules, as would obtain if the danger had been real.”
In this case, Ashworth wrote that the situation meets self-defense criteria.
“Having the benefit of bodyworn camera footage, video footage from FX2 helicopter, and forensic collection at the scene, it is clear that the officers apprehended imminent bodily harm as the subject raised his gun at the officers while walking towards them,’” Ashworth wrote.
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What Did the Investigation Involve?
Ashworth took her time with the investigation. She provided media with a list of what she accessed to reach her decision. That included 1,207 pieces of evidence, recordings of the 911 call and radio traffic. Ashworth also pulled police dispatch records and more than 900 photos documenting the evidence. Officials from her department compared crime scene reports to the photos and footage from body-worn police cameras.
“We reviewed each of the audio recorded interviews of the officers and co-responders done by the police detectives in the early morning hours of December 11th, as well as the follow up interviews completed on the following Tuesday,
December 15,” she wrote in her report.
Her staff also went through an interview of the first medic on scene. They also spoke with Frevert’s wife and eldest son.
Department’s Investigation Continues
While Ashworth issued her ruling, that doesn’t mean the case is over. The police department’s Office of Professional Standards is running an independent investigation. That’s still not finished. When it does wrap up, the results go to the department’s Use of Deadly Force Review Board. In their statement, the department said “the board will determine if the shooting was within policy and will make any recommendations as needed.”
None of the five men involved have ever been in an officer-involved shooting, according to department records. The department released names, job titles and details like how long they’ve worked as an officer. The officers involved in the incident are:
- Officer Adam Beard, age 32. Beard serves with the Personnel Bureau within the Support Services Division as an officer on the Co-Responder Unit. He has approximately 6 years of service.
- Officer Ivan Torres, age 33. Torres works with the Eastern Patrol District within the Operations Division as an evening shift patrol officer. He has approximately 4 years of service.
- Sergeant James Krisner, age 35. He works with the Eastern Patrol District within the Operations Division as an evening shift patrol supervisor. Krisner has approximately 13 years of service.
- Master Police Officer Shaun Barrett, age 37. Barrett works with the Special Operations Bureau within the Operations Division as a K-9 officer. He has approximately 14 years of service.
- Officer Ravinder Mehta, age 36. He works with the Eastern Patrol District within the Operations Division as an evening shift patrol officer. Mehta has approximately 6 years of service.