Prince William County police identified three officers involved in the December fatal shooting of an armed burglary suspect who fled from police and refused to drop his weapon.
Officers Nicholas Colella, Brandon Fields and Christopher Moore fired on Jabril Eli Mitchell, 21, who was being sought in connection with an armed burglary earlier in the day. The three officers, who were on patrol and were called to the scene, were placed on administrative leave after the incident and are now back at work, said police Chief Charlie T. Deane in an interview.
Both Deane and Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert, after a separate investigation, have ruled the shooting justified.
“Overall, there was overwhelming evidence that this armed individual posed an imminent threat to officers and others at the time this action was taken,” Deane said.
The series of incidents that led to the shooting began shortly before noon on December 21, when a man returning to his Woodbridge home interrupted a burglary, according to Officer Jonathan Perok, a Prince William police spokesman. The burglar ran away, and the homeowner was able to describe the getaway car that the man had hopped into, police said.
Police said a lookout was issued for the car, and officers pulled it over when they spotted it just after 1:30 p.m. in Triangle, about five miles from the scene of the burglary. The driver, a woman, was taken into custody, police said. But the man in the passenger’s seat ran into the nearby woods.
No charges were pressed against the female driver.
Officers chased the man but lost sight of him, Perok said. A police dog soon led officers to a ravine just off Jefferson Davis Highway.
There, authorities said, officers found Mitchell holding a gun. Perok said the man was “ordered several times” to drop the weapon, but he refused. Officers had formed a perimeter around the area, Perok said, and were also concerned about the safety of those on the nearby road.
None of the officers have been involved in a previous shooting incident, Deane said. “We have a defense of life policy in this department,” Deane said. “When an imminent threat of deadly force is posed, an officer is authorized to use deadly force.”
Ebert came to the same conclusion after an independent investigation. The police officers had a “reasonable belief” they could be harmed or seriously injured, Ebert said.