Shifflett charged; cops cleared
On the same day that Albemarle Police announced three new felony charges against Elvis Gene Shifflett, Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo held a press conference to announce an investigation by State Police has exonerated the officers who shot Shifflett.
"These are split second decisions," said Longo, adding that Sergeant Melvin G. Davis and Officer James Morris believed their lives or lives of others were in imminent danger when they shot at Shifflett as he tried to make his escape from Brookhill Avenue on October 20. Charlottesville Police will now conduct their own investigation of the officer's conduct, to ensure officer's followed the department's protocol for use of deadly force.
Shifflett had been on the run since October 13, when he allegedly tried to shoot his ex-girlfriend, who is the mother of Shifflett's 13-year-old child, as she emerged from Charlottesville Juvenile and Domestic Court.
Longo spent approximately 15 minutes during today's afternoon conference detailing the events that led up to Shifflett's shooting.
Police spotted Shifflett early in the morning on October 20, Longo said, and during pursuit, Shifflett wrecked the car off Rt. 20S near the Visitor's Center and then fled, leaving a female passenger and a loaded semi-automatic in the car.
Charlottesville and Albemarle police officers, along with a K-9 unit, tracked Shifflett to nearby Brookhill Avenue in Albemarle County. Albemarle County Police officer Richardson saw Shifflett in the cab of a "flatbed wrecker," said Longo, and called out to him to show his hands. Shifflett– who Longo said had been lying sideways in the cab of the truck– rose up and appeared to aim his hands at Richardson as if he was holding a gun.
Longo said Richardson believed Shifflett was armed and shouted "He's in the truck, he's in the truck!" but did not fire his weapon. Nearby, Sergeant Davis heard Richardson's alert and as Shifflett started the truck and began to back it up rapidly, fishtailing in the process, Davis fired two shots from his .223 caliber rifle into the truck cab, hitting Shifflett. Charlottesville police officer James Morris also fired one shot into the rear tire of the wrecker Shifflett was driving.
A fourth shot went off, said Longo, when a sheriff's deputy was "transferring" a weapon to another person. That bullet entered the ground and did not hit anyone.
Shifflett, currently being held in the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail, has been charged with eluding the police, grand larceny, and possessing a firearm after being convicted of a violent felony, said Albemarle Police Lieutenant John Teixeira of the Albemarle Police.
Shifflett's niece, Christina Roach, tells the Hook that her uncle is still very weak, can only take a few steps on his own, and requires assistance using the bathroom at the jail–something she says that jail personnel have refused to help him with. Roach also says that Sergeant Davis, who shot Shifflett, may have had a past history with her uncle, something Chief Longo addressed at today's press conference. Longo did not know the nature of Davis' previous encounters with Shifflett, but says several officers were familiar with Shifflett.
According to Elvis Shifflett's sister, who requested her name not be used, Shifflett's as yet unnamed lawyer has advised him, and other family members, to no longer speak to the press.
Some of those family members have suggested in media reports that Shifflett was afraid of the police and was ready to turn himself in. Since he was unarmed at the time he was apprehended, family members said, he posed no immediate danger to the police or to the public at large.
"I don't think he demonstrated any other behavior other than he expected a violent encounter with the police," he said. "I see nothing to suggest that he was afraid."
Longo says Shifflett admitted during an interview soon after his shooting that he had used crack cocaine the day he was caught.
Is it possible Shifflett might have been attempting "suicide by cop," in which a depressed and desperate person behaves in such a way as to force police to kill him?
"It would be easy to draw that inference," responded Longo.
Longo says neither Davis nor Morris– both "seasoned officers"– have used "deadly force" during their tenures with the department. Doing so, said Longo, is a "highly traumatic event for an officer." While both Davis and Morris were put on administrative leave during the investigation, they will be back on the job by Monday, says Longo, though they may not immediately go back to patrolling the streets.