An Essex County man died early yesterday after being shot in a frenetic battle Monday afternoon with two Fredericksburg police officers who had pulled him over for a traffic stop.
After being sprayed repeatedly with pepper spray and zapped with a Taser that set his hair on fire, Robert C. Trouth, 29, of Hustle, Va., still managed to take away one officer's service weapon before the second officer fired one shot into his back, according to police.
"Those officers were in a fight for their lives," police spokesman Jim Shelhorse said.
The officers' names were not released. Police said they received "bumps and bruises and scratches." Both were placed on administrative leave with pay pending a criminal investigation and a probe by the professional standards department, Shelhorse said. He said the last shooting involving Fredericksburg police was four to five years ago.
Police said they pulled Trouth over shortly after 5 p.m. Monday when he failed to stop at a stop sign and followed him into an Amoco gas station on Princess Anne Street. When they asked for his driver's license and registration, they discovered that he was driving with a suspended license.
At that point, they asked his passenger, Juliette Young, for identification. They found that Young, 43, also of Hustle, was wanted on felony warrants in Spotsylvania and Stafford counties and placed her under arrest.
Trouth became agitated and "just all of a sudden began assaulting the officers," Shelhorse said. He said the officers described Trouth as "extremely strong" and had trouble subduing him. Shelhorse said the officers repeatedly sprayed him with pepper spray and then used a Taser, an electric stun device.
"They were up, down and on the ground," Shelhorse said.
During the battle, Trouth knocked away both officers' radios, so they had no way to call for backup, Shelhorse said, adding that witnesses called 911. He said Trouth kept fighting even after the Taser ignited his hair, wrestling one of the officers to the ground and grabbing his gun from his holster.
"He's got my gun! He's got my gun!" Shelhorse said the officer yelled. The two struggled for the loaded Glock .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun, he said.
Trouth "had the gun in his hand, and the officer reached up and grabbed the business end of it, trying to get control," Shelhorse said. He added that the gun has no safety.
The second officer discharged the Taser again with no response, Shelhorse said, then drew his service weapon and fired once into Trouth's back.
"Even once he was shot, he continued to resist," Shelhorse said. "Even when other officers arrived on the scene, he resisted being handcuffed."
Trouth was taken to Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, where he died about 1 a.m. Court records indicate that he had been sentenced in 2002 to nine months in prison for two counts of assaulting a federal officer. He had faced several charges -- assault, drug possession and traffic violations -- in Maryland and Virginia courts.
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.