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Police shooting death of 15-year-old Haymarket teen ruled justified

A new police report just released states a 15-year-old male struck a woman in the head with a crowbar and caused her serious injuries before he was shot and killed by police on Friday.

Prince William County Commonwealth Attorney Paul Ebert called the teen’s shooting justified. 

From a press release:

The criminal investigation into the officer-involved shooting that occurred on September 15, 2017, in the Haymarket area of Prince William County has been completed.

This investigation was conducted by detectives from the Prince William County Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division and was reviewed by the Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office this morning for a determination of criminal liability concerning the officers’ actions in the shooting. In the interest of keeping the residents of Prince William County informed of significant incidents involving our officers and the community, further details of the investigation and the ruling of criminal liability are being publicly disclosed.

On September 15, 2017 at approximately 10:45AM, the Prince William County Public Safety Communications Center received a 9-1-1 call from a male claiming he had a bomb strapped to his chest and was holding his mother hostage inside a residence located in the 6800 block of Hartzell Hill Lane in Haymarket.

During the call, the individual stated he had blades and blunt weapons and that he was possibly going to retrieve a gun. The male also made threats towards his family and the police, in addition to, making statements that he did not want to live anymore. He eventually became agitated with the call-taker upon further questioning and disconnected. Communications center staff were unable to reestablish contact with the caller before officers arrived.

A patrol officer and an officer assigned to the Department’s Tactical Training & Response Unit were first to arrive in the area of the home at approximately 10:58AM. Due to the threat of the bomb, the officers parked their vehicles down the street away from the residence and attempted to coordinate their approach.

At that point, a male ran towards the officers from the residence in a panic and informed them his brother had a weapon. While one of the officers was retrieving equipment from his trunk, the other officer observed a different male strike a female with a large metal object in front of the home. The female was able to run away from the assailant, at which time, the individual began approaching the officers at an aggressive pace.

At that point, the officer realized the object the male was carrying was a full-sized crowbar. As the male neared one of the officers, he raised the crowbar in the air with both hands in a threatening manner. The officer gave multiple verbal commands, which were heard by independent witnesses, for the individual to stop and drop the weapon. The male ignored the commands and continued to advance towards the officer. At that point, the officer, in fear for his own safety, fired his Department issued handgun twice towards the male, striking him in the upper body. No other shots were fired. The report of shots fired was communicated to police dispatch at approximately 11:05AM.

At the time of the interaction with police, the male was wearing a heavy jacket. Officers quickly determined no explosives were on his person and immediately requested rescue personnel respond to the scene to treat his injuries. Officers provided first aid, including CPR, until medical services arrived.

As officers were providing first aid, a knife was located in the pocket of the jacket. The male died at the scene a short time later. No officers were injured during the incident. The female involved in the assault was 18-years-old and sustained serious injuries to her head and back as a result of being struck by the crowbar. She was transported to an area hospital for treatment. The crowbar was determined to be 3 feet in length.

The decedent was identified as Ruben Urbina, age 15, of Haymarket. On Saturday, September 16, an autopsy was performed by the Medical Examiner’s Office which confirmed both rounds fired by the officer struck the deceased, resulting in his death.

The investigation revealed earlier that morning, Ruben made comments to his mother implying that he wanted to tie her up with a telephone cord. He became increasingly aggressive, at which point, the mother went to another room of the home to get assistance from Ruben’s brother and a female who was visiting the residence.

The brother and female acquaintance encountered Ruben in the garage area where they attempted to calm him down. Ruben told them he called police and wanted officers to kill him. During that encounter, Ruben pulled out a knife and made threats towards them. Ruben then located a crowbar in the garage and continued making threats. At this point, the first responding officers began to arrive.

The investigation further determined no hostage situation had occurred and that the family was unaware Ruben had initially contacted police. A Prince William County Police EOD-trained K-9 and explosive technicians from the Virginia State Police conducted a thorough check of the home for any possible explosives. No explosives were located. Officers have responded to the residence in past for unrelated calls for service prior to this incident; however, have had no prior encounters with Ruben.

The two officers involved in the initial response to the residence were not assigned a Body-Worn Camera. The Police Department began issuing Body-Worn Cameras, in conjunction with training, at the beginning of September and will continue this process until the end of the year.

Upon reviewing the actions of the officer involved in the shooting and the details of the investigation as described above, Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Paul Ebert, ruled the shooting was justified. Mr. Ebert stated, “It is always tragic when a young person loses his life by any means. In this case, the Juvenile involved was ready, willing and able to inflict death or serious bodily harm upon the responding officers. In my opinion, the officer involved acted as a result of a reasonable apprehension of death or serious bodily harm and the homicide was justified.”

Prince William County Police Chief Barry Barnard commented, “As we continue to evaluate this incident, it seems at this stage in our administrative investigation, the officer acted appropriately in response to dynamic circumstances. This is undoubtedly a tragedy and we recognize the loss of this life is extremely difficult for the family and our community. Officers are often placed in situations where they are forced to make critical decisions quickly based on limited information. This shooting was traumatic for the officers involved and we ask for continued support from our community as we move forward.”

The Prince William County Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards is continuing an independent administrative investigation into the shooting. A final review of the incident will be conducted by the Department’s Use of Deadly Force Review Board, which will examine all aspects of the incident. The Board will determine if the shooting was within policy and will make any considerations as needed based on their findings.

The officer involved in the shooting was identified as Officer Robert Choyce, age 35, a 7-year law enforcement veteran of the Prince William County Police Department. He is currently assigned to the Tactical Training & Response Unit and has not been involved in any previous officer-involved shootings.

The Police Department recognizes the sensitivity of officer-involved shootings and the public’s interest in remaining informed as to the circumstances surrounding incidents when deadly force actions are used by the police. We remain committed to conducting a thorough investigation when these incidents occur and appreciate our community’s patience while we gather and process information.

The Department is evaluating this incident and will continue to release any additional, pertinent information related to this investigation as needed to keep our community informed.

 

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