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Deadly force justified in fatal Giles shooting

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

 

GILES COUNTY – A special prosecutor ruled Monday that the use of deadly force against a Narrows man in Giles County in October was “justified and appropriate,” so no charges will be filed against the officers involved.

Jonathan V. Robertson, 32, was killed Oct. 26 in a shootout with officers from Virginia State Police, Giles County Sheriff’s Office and Pearisburg Police Department. Robertson was wanted on charges of malicious wounding and robbery stemming from an incident a day earlier.

“The officers at each of the three crime scenes and at each stage of this pursuit and apprehension possessed a reasonable belief that they or their fellow officers were in imminent danger of death or serious injury based on the shots fired and firearm brandished by Jonathan Robertson,” Salem City Commonwealth’s Attorney Thomas E. Bowers states in his finding.

Bowers was appointed to investigate the shooting after Giles County Prosecutor Robert Lilly Jr., a former assistant prosecutor for Pulaski County, disqualified himself.

“Jonathan Robertson initiated the violent contact and raised the level to one of deadly force by pointing and shooting his firearm at (law enforcement officers) on Fletchers Mountain Road. As the pursuit continued down Fletchers Mountain Road and onto Route 100 towards Pearisburg, Jonathan Robertson continued the violent assault, brandishing and firing his weapon repeatedly against officers at two additional crime scenes,” Bowers’ opinion states.

“Jonathan Robertson controlled this series of events and could have stopped this pursuit and gun battle at any time. He chose not to do that and continued the fight against the law enforcement officers, giving the officers no alternative but to defend themselves and others.

“A threat of deadly force is dealt individually by each officer facing such a threat, and the cumulative effect of multiple gunshots by multiple officers on a single suspect does not diminish the officer’s right to protect himself and his sworn oath and duty to protect others,” Bowers states.

The pursuit of Robertson stemmed from an investigation into the robbery and shooting of 18-year-old Luke Robbins of Narrows, whose injuries were not life threatening. Police encountered Robertson the next day on Fletchers Mountain Road in the course of the investigation.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said at the time that Robertson used his pickup truck to block the road, forcing officers to stop; then fired upon them when they identified themselves. The officers returned fire and Roberston started to flee the scene in his truck.

As Robertson attempted to elude officers, he ran over a device deployed to deflate the truck’s tires. Robertson continued about 75 yards, exchanged more gunfire with deputies then continued to flee the scene. The truck proceeded to Thomas Drive in the town of Pearisburg, where it ran off the road. Robertson was wounded when he again exchanged gunfire with officers, said Geller.

No law enforcement officers were injured throughout the ordeal.