An article yesterday incorrectly reported that Mark Francis Arban fired from the driveway of his home just before a police sniper killed him last Thanksgiving. He fired into the driveway. (Published 2/ 21/91)
Prince William County police officers properly followed department policy when they stormed a Dale City house last Thanksgiving, prompting a shootout that left an officer and a suspect dead, authorities said yesterday.
Police Chief Charlie T. Deane said at a news conference that an investigation by the department's Internal Affairs Division revealed no criminal or procedural wrongdoing had occurred.
Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert also said he concluded in a separate investigation that the officers had acted properly.
"I concluded it was a justifiable shooting," Ebert said. "It was a judgment call, a decision made by well-trained people."
About 7 a.m. last Thanksgiving SWAT team officers rammed the door of a home in the 14700 block of Dodson Drive owned by Mark Francis Arban and entered to serve a search warrant in connection with the shooting hours earlier of an Arlington County sheriff's deputy.
Less than a half-hour after SWAT officers entered the home, Arban fatally shot Prince William Officer Philip Michael Pennington, 35, the first officer in the department's 20-year history and the third Washington area officer killed in a potential barricade situation in the last two years.
"Overall the plan executed was a reasonable and professional plan executed with courage and skill and the proper amount of consideration for the safety of all involved," Deane said.
No policy changes, disciplinary actions or transfers of officers will take place as a result of the incident, he said.
Deane said the decision to enter the house, rather than talk to Arban by telephone or over a bullhorn, was a judgment call made by Lt. Jim Weakland and Lt. Robert Schaul. The plan was approved by Assistant Police Chief James K. Sullivan, who was also at the scene, Deane said.
Police released details of the shooting and the investigation, using a slide presentation that showed drawings of the inside of the house.
According to police, Arban, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who felt threatened by police, was standing on a staircase leading to the basement when officers went into the house.
When an officer noticed Arban holding a .25-caliber handgun, the officer fired once, striking a metal stair railing. The bullet disintegrated.
Police said they later found out that Arban had been hit by the debris.
Arban, 31, moved to the bottom of the stairs in the basement, according to police, where he stayed while Pennington, an 11-year veteran of the department, spent 16 to 20 minutes negotiating with him to allow police to search the house. Deane said
Pennington repeatedly told Arban that he was not under arrest and that officers were there only to search the house.
Officers inside the house reported that Arban told Pennington that he was a member of the KGB and that the officers should check with the FBI on who would clear him, Deane said.
Arban repeatedly "said that he could not be arrested," Deane said.
At the end of the exchange, shortly after Pennington said the officers in the house were from the Prince William Police Department, Arban repeated the name of the agency, picked up a garment bag and disappeared from sight at the bottom of the basement stairs, Deane said.
Within seconds, officers heard the sound of an automatic shotgun being cocked.
"Someone said, 'Automatic,' " and the officers began to back out the door, Deane said.
Then Arban fired and struck Pennington, who was backing out behind a bulletproof shield.
Shortly after shooting Pennington, when Arban began firing from the driveway of his home, he was killed by a police sniper standing across the street from the house.
Arban used a high-powered AK-47 assault rifle clone to shoot Pennington. Police said they believe he used his .25-caliber handgun to shoot Arlington Sheriff's Deputy Daryl F. LaClair about midnight on Nov. 22. Police said they confiscated lists of police car license plate numbers at Arban's home.