Mentally Ill Man With Gun Is Shot and Killed by Police

By Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Thomas Pierson Sr. spoke of hearing voices and lately would sit by himself in the dark all day, so his family was not completely shocked yesterday when he didn't drop the shotgun after Prince William County police officers surrounded him.

"He wasn't stupid. If you got four officers with weapons around you, and you're told to put it down, you better do it," said his son, Thomas Pierson Jr. "He knew what he was doing."

Four officers fired their weapons almost simultaneously, killing Pierson Sr., 70.

Pierson Jr. said his father had struggled with mental illness for 25 years and was hospitalized at one point. He was a good man most of the time, the younger Pierson said, but his behavior grew strange over the years, and he had never gotten over his wife's death five years ago.

Pierson Jr. said his family does not fault the officers.

"If I was in the same position, I would probably have done the same thing," he said.

Police were called to the home in the 13400 block of Forest Glen Road in Woodbridge just before 7 a.m. by neighbors who awoke to the sound of gunshots. When officers arrived, Pierson stood in his front yard, gun in hand, authorities said. The officers ordered Pierson to drop his weapon, but he showed no signs of complying, instead pointing it at the officers, authorities said.

"Like most incidents that involve deadly force by police, this developed very quickly and was over in seconds," Prince William Police Chief Charlie T. Deane said.

After the shooting, Pierson's body lay near the cement stoop of his blue-paneled home, in the same spot where neighbors say he passed the hours sitting in a red plastic lawn chair.

"You could come out at 6:30 in the morning and he'd be there. You could come out at night and he'd be there," said neighbor Mia McGuire, 24.

Everyone in the neighborhood knew of his mental problems, she added.

"He would sit in that chair and just bark at people, stare at you," she said. "I was scared to pass his house."

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