Deputy Kerry Grigsby and Sgt. Rick McKinley only had seconds to react.
The two Culpeper County Sheriff’s Deputies were in pursuit of Eric Wesley Clark, 43, of Culpeper, July 17 when the incident turned deadly.
In video shown to the Culpeper Times by Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins, the deputies acted quickly in having to stop the threat Clark presented.
“I can’t think of a thing I would have done differently in the shoes of either officer,” Jenkins said. “I commend them for their actions and obviously they reverted to their training and experience. It all played a vital role in them being able to survive and come away from the incident unharmed.”
The deadly incident began shortly before 10 p.m. July 17 when the CCSO received a 911 call for a domestic assault at a local residents, and was told the suspect, Clark, had left the residence. Deputies were told to be on the lookout for Clark’s minivan.
At approximately 11 p.m. Grigsby spotted the vehicle near the town of Culpeper on Route 229. He followed the vehicle onto Old Rixeyville Road where he put on his emergency lights.
In the video from Grigsby’s dash cam, the deputy follows the car along Colonel Jameson Blvd. at a normal rate of speed. Clark turns onto 522 North and later accelerates, but never seems to be excessively breaking the speed limit.
Grigsby continues in pursuit, with his emergency lights and sirens on.
At one point, a few minutes into the pursuit, Grigsby pulls alongside Clark in an effort to make himself be visible. Clark extends his hand outside of the driver side window, making a gesture that appears to resemble a gun.
Shortly after that, Clark turns left onto Griffinsburg Road, back in the direction of his residence, where Grigsby rams into the minivan sending it spinning.
That’s when the incident turns deadly.
Grigsby can be plainly heard on the dash cam yelling “drop the gun, drop the gun. Put it down now.”
That verbal command is followed by a burst of shots and then Grigsby saying he has the gun and the shell.
Later as, the dash camera continues to roll, Grigsby and McKinley can be heard administering CPR to Clark.
Grigsby can be heard saying he’s OK, following by “I was scared of death for you, that gun was pointed right at you.”
The incident was captured in another angle by Sgt. Chris Hibbs’ dash cam, as he arrived on the scene just seconds after Clark’s vehicle was spun.
His camera catches the moment that McKinley fires through his windshield at Clark, as Grigsby fires from another angle. Clark’s vehicle was positioned directly in front of McKinley.
Hibbs’ camera shows Grigsby clearing the weapon away and then the two deputies attempting to save Clark’s life.
“Our policy manual is similar to most any law enforcement agency,” Jenkins said, explaining the situations in which the CCSO has to use deadly force. “Use of force starts with your physical presence, and verbal commands and it escalates all the way up to deadly force. When faced a force that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury, the officers are authorized to overcome that danger with the use of deadly force.”
Jenkins commended the deputies for attempting to save the life of the man who just posed a threat to them.
“I think because of their training and professionalism the officers have in their daily mental approach, it makes it not a difficult thing to do,” Jenkins said. “We train very regularly, not just on a firing range but in actual shoot/don’t shoot scenarios to be able to prepare them in that split second situation.”
Jenkins pointed out that the deputies had the information that Clark was armed and dangerous, and he had already committed a violent act earlier in the evening sending the victim to the hospital.
This was the third deadly shooting involving the CCSO in four years, the first coming in 2013 and the other in 2016.
McKinley has 17 years experience and Grigsby seven years, including two on patrol.
Both are now on modified duty until the investigation is complete.
Jenkins praised the firearms training the deputies received, for helping keeping them safe. He mentioned the fact that McKinley had to fire through his windshield, falling back on his training despite having a threat pointing a shotgun at him just over the hood of his cruiser.
“I’m just grateful for the training Bryant Arrington and the firearms instructor group has done here at this office for the last five and a half years,” Jenkins said. “We have a higher standard than anyone in the region for our firearms qualifications. State minimum for anyone is 70 percent, we’ve had 75 percent minimum score for years but we’re increasing it to 80 percent for anyone.”
SWAT officers and school resource officers have to shoot 90 percent of better to hold those positions.
Jenkins gave members of the media an opportunity to view the videos in an effort to quell concerns about use of force by law enforcement. He pointed to the incident in 2016 where Willis Walker Jr., 49, was fatally wounded by a sheriff’s deputy responding to a report that Walker had shot and killed his neighbor and assaulted his estranged wife. In that incident, Jenkins invited the NAACP to view the dash camera footage to show there was no wrongdoing on the part of the sheriff’s office. In the July 17 incident, he wanted to be as transparent as possible to let the public know the deputies involved followed procedure.
According to the VSP, shooting remains under investigation.