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Review Clears Deputy in Fatal Shooting

By Karin Brulliard
Washington Post staff writer
Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page LZ01

The fatal shooting of an armed Ashburn man by a Loudoun County sheriff's deputy in March was justified, according to a Sheriff's Office investigation and a review by Loudoun County's top prosecutor.

In a letter dated April 19 and addressed to Sheriff Stephen O. Simpson, Commonwealth's Attorney James E. Plowman wrote that he had evaluated the internal investigation and concluded the actions of Deputy Travis Westgate and "the use of deadly force employed by him were justified given all surrounding factors."

On March 18, Westgate shot and killed John E. Howard, 47, while responding to a report of domestic abuse at Howard's home on Graves Lane. Authorities said at the time that Westgate shot Howard after the man emerged from the home carrying a weapon, fired twice and appeared prepared to shoot again.

An inquiry into the shooting, conducted by sheriff's investigator Steve Angelo and based on statements by deputies at the scene and one witness, confirmed that sequence of events. According to the Sheriff's Office, Angelo found that a deputy repeatedly demanded that Howard drop his weapon, described as a "long firearm." Howard fired at least twice, ignored another order that he drop his weapon and began to turn toward a deputy while raising his weapon, the investigation found.

Westgate then fired one round from his rifle, striking Howard in the torso. Howard was pronounced dead at Loudoun Hospital.

In his letter, Plowman said that "physical observations" by the medical examiner's office also confirmed official accounts of the shooting.

Westgate, a five-year veteran, was placed on administrative leave. He returned to work Thursday.

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