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Posted on: October 11, 2022

Legal Conclusion Following Officer-Involved Shooting of Barry D. Carrington

The following is contents of a letter dated Oct. 11, 2022, from the Norfolk Commonwealth's Attorney to Virginia State Police Captain Timothy A. Reibel detailing Mr. Fatehi's legal conclusion following the officer-involved shooting of Barry D. Carrington on Feb. 12, 2022, on Granby Street:


Dear Captain Reibel:

I have reviewed your use-of-force investigation into the incident that took place in the 200 block of Granby Street in the City of Norfolk on February 12, 2022, during which Norfolk Police Officers Jacob Reeves and Gareth Coleman shot and wounded Barry D. Carrington, Jr. Officers Reeves and Coleman justifiably used lethal force because an objective observer would have concluded that Mr. Carrington intended to use deadly force against the officers or other people. These officers acted properly to protect the public, and so there are no criminal charges to file against Officers Reeves and Coleman.

Facts

On the evening of February 12, 2022, Barry D. Carrington, Jr., was at the Hilton Norfolk the Main Hotel on East Main Street in Norfolk. Mr. Carrington had drinks at one of the bars there, drank more at a bar at the Waterside District, and came back to the Main to drink again. Mr. Carrington was illegally concealing a nine-millimeter Beretta semiautomatic pistol in the pocket of his trench coat. Mr. Carrington was under the influence of alcohol; his hospital records would later reveal that his blood-alcohol concentration was a .30, over three times the legal limit to drive. 

Norfolk Police Officer Jacob Reeves was off duty and working as part-time security for the Main. Norfolk Police Department general orders did not require Officer Reeves to wear or use his body camera while working part-time, but Officer Reeves chose to do so. 

At about 10:14 P.M., Officer Reeves heard from the hotel night manager that a man (Mr. Carrington) was possibly brandishing a gun outside the lobby of the hotel. Officer Reeves turned on his body camera, walked out of the hotel, and spoke to a woman who said that nobody had pulled a gun on her. Officer Reeves yelled to Mr. Carrington not to come back to the hotel and walked back to talk to other people to learn what had happened. 

While Officer Reeves was having those conversations, Mr. Carrington walked north on Granby Street, west on Plume Street, and north on Randolph Street toward City Hall Avenue. While on Randolph Street, Mr. Carrington took out his gun and fired 13 gunshots, hitting the living-room window of one apartment in the Law Building and the bedroom window of another. Mr. Carrington then walked east on City Hall Avenue and turned north onto Granby Street. A witness on City Hall Avenue saw Mr. Carrington with his gun out and blowing into the magazine of his gun. 

Multiple 911 callers phoned in Mr. Carrington’s gunshots, and Officer Reeves, hearing them, ran up Granby Street and Plume Street looking for their source. The Main night manager pointed out Mr. Carrington to Officer Reeves, who called for additional officers to help him.

Officers Marko Padilla and Gareth Coleman (the latter on his fourth day as a police officer), joined Officer Reeves in confronting Mr. Carrington, having heard the radio report of shots fired nearby. Mr. Carrington was standing in the vestibule of a business next door to Grace O’Malley’s Irish Pub; Mr. Carrington was holding his gun in his right hand, and the officers saw Mr. Carrington holding his gun. 

The officers pulled their guns on Mr. Carrington and ordered Mr. Carrington to drop his gun. Mr. Carrington did not listen to them. Officer Padilla’s body-camera footage shows Mr. Carrington concealing his gun under his trench coat, pulling out his gun and turning to a corner of a vestibule, and taking the magazine out of his gun.

As the officers continued to order Mr. Carrington to drop his gun, Mr. Carrington loaded the magazine back into the gun, hid the gun behind his leg and back, turned to his right, and started to walk down Granby Street. Mr. Carrington told the officers, “Shoot me.” As it turned out, that magazine was empty.

Mr. Carrington started to run down Granby Street, his gun still hidden, and Officers Reeves and Coleman shoot at Mr. Carrington, hitting him in the left arm and shoulder and right leg. Officer Reeves fired eight shots, and Officer Coleman two. Officer Padilla did not fire his gun. Surveillance footage from inside Grace O’Malley’s shows the staff inside moving patrons from the front of the restaurant to the back shortly before the officers’ fire. The footage shows two puffs of dust from officers’ bullets entering the restaurant.

Mr. Carrington finally dropped his gun and fell to the sidewalk, bleeding from his wounds. A passerby walking her dog sustained an injury to her foot, possibly from a bullet ricochet, that paramedics treated at the scene. She was fortunately not seriously hurt.

Once Mr. Carrington dropped his gun, the officers stopped shooting, handcuffed Mr. Carrington, and worked to treat Mr. Carrington and to preserve the evidence of these events. The Norfolk Police Department, pursuant to its laudable operating procedures in these incidents, called in the Virginia State Police to investigate the circumstances of the shooting. I received a call from the Norfolk Police Department at about the same time and was able to walk the scene and speak to the State Police investigative team and to be available to them for any legal questions. The Norfolk Police Department investigated the shootings that Mr. Carrington committed. 

Mr. Carrington spent three days at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital undergoing treatment for his gunshot wounds, with his records showing a .30 blood-alcohol concentration shortly after he arrived. 

After the hospital discharged Mr. Carrington on February 15, 2022, Norfolk Police arrested Mr. Carrington for two counts of maliciously shooting into an occupied dwelling. After waiving his Miranda rights, Mr. Carrington admitted to drinking and to carrying his gun but denied shooting it or being drunk. Mr. Carrington did not remember being shot. A special prosecutor handled the case against Mr. Carrington, who pleaded guilty in August of 2022 to one count of maliciously shooting into an occupied dwelling.

Legal Standard

The United States Supreme Court has recognized that law-enforcement officers may use deadly force to arrest (and by inference to neutralize) a dangerous individual:

Where the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others, it is not constitutionally unreasonable to prevent escape by using deadly force. Thus, if the suspect threatens the officer with a weapon or there is probable cause to believe that he has committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm, deadly force may be used if necessary to prevent escape, and if, where feasible, some warning has been given.

Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 11–12 (1985).

The Court has further explained:

The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight….The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments—in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving—about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.

Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396–97 (1989). 

The Virginia Supreme Court and Court of Appeals have further recognized that a law-enforcement officer may use deadly force to protect himself, others, or the general public from what a reasonable observer would consider to be the imminent use of deadly force. See generally Mercer v. Commonwealth, 150 Va. 588, 599–600 (1928); Foster v. Commonwealth, 13 Va. App. 380, 385–86 (1991).

Analysis

By the time that Officers Reeves, Coleman, and Padilla found Mr. Carrington on Granby Street, the officers had reason to believe that Mr. Carrington had committed a violent act, namely maliciously shooting his gun in the heart of Downtown Norfolk. Indeed, subsequent investigation proved that Mr. Carrington had not just shot his gun but had fired bullets into the apartments of two innocent citizens, and Mr. Carrington pleaded guilty in the Norfolk Circuit Court to the felony of maliciously shooting into an occupied dwelling for those actions.

Mr. Carrington was holding his gun in his hand, turning away from the officers, and loading a magazine into the gun. The officers repeatedly ordered Mr. Carrington to drop the gun, but Mr. Carrington did not drop it. Instead, he finished loading the magazine into the gun, kept the gun in his hand, began to move around and to turn away from the officers, ran from the officers and toward other people, and said, “Shoot me.” 

The only logical reason to load a magazine into a gun is to prepare to fire the gun. Even after Mr. Carrington did so, the officers did not shoot him, instead repeatedly ordering Mr. Carrington to drop the gun. Mr. Carrington refused. 

Mr. Carrington was on Granby Street just outside of a crowded restaurant, and there were people around him in all directions. Officer Reeves had heard gunshots that sent him looking for Mr. Carrington, and Officers Coleman and Padilla had come to help Officer Reeves as a result of the report of gunshots fired. 

Mr. Carrington had armed himself, loaded his gun, and disobeyed the officers’ pleas to deescalate the situation by dropping his gun. Officers Reeves and Coleman could reasonably conclude that Mr. Carrington was responsible for the gunshots Officer Reeves had heard, could not predict what Mr. Carrington would do, and could not run the risk that Mr. Carrington would shoot at and wound or kill them or any of the numerous people nearby. 

Faced with this difficult and dangerous situation, the officers chose the only option that Mr. Carrington had left to them: to shoot Mr. Carrington in order to protect themselves and the people around them from the potential for deadly violence. 

The fact that Mr. Carrington was out of ammunition does nothing to change this analysis; the officers had no way of knowing that, and a reasonable person could conclude from Mr. Carrington’s actions that he had not run out. The fact that one of the officers’ shots caused injury to a passerby was the unfortunate consequence off Mr. Carrington’s actions and does not constitute a crime. 

Conclusion

Had Mr. Carrington made better choices that night—not to bring his gun out with him, not to mix guns and alcohol, not to shoot into the homes of innocent people, not to reload his gun outside of a crowded restaurant, not to disobey the police’s totally reasonable commands that he drop his gun, not to hide his gun from their view—he could have avoided committing a felony, getting shot, and causing harm to a passerby. We are fortunate that Mr. Carrington survived his series of bad choices and that more people were not hurt due to Mr. Carrington’s irresponsible and criminal behavior. 

We owe Officers Reeves and Coleman our thanks for making a wrenching and split-second decision to use force in service to public safety. We must remember that every time a police officer goes to work, the officer may have to make difficult, split-second, life-or-death decisions, often risking their own lives to protect the lives of others. Officers Reeves and Coleman were legally justified in using the force necessary to protect themselves and the public from Mr. Carrington’s dangerous and illegal conduct. 

We also owe thanks to Terrence White and the staff at Grace O’Malley’s for their clear thinking in attending to their patrons during this volatile situation and to the numerous witnesses who called 911, remained at the scene, spoke to the investigators, and provided video footage, allowing the investigators to present a clear picture of these events for law enforcement and the public.

Finally, please allow me to express my appreciation to you and your investigators—in particular Special Agent Accountant Shawna E. Griffith—for the highly professional work you devote to these important use-of-force investigations and to the Norfolk Police Department for their cooperation in these important cases. You set an example for how agencies can build public trust through transparency and a search for the truth no matter where it leads. Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Ramin Fatehi

Commonwealth’s Attorney

CC: Michael G. Goldsmith, Acting Chief of Police, City of Norfolk

Bernard A. Pishko, Esq., City Attorney

Andrew A. Protogyrou, Esq., Counsel for Officer Reeves

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