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Deadly shooting by Rockbridge County officers declared justified

Officers killed a suspected bank robber on Dec. 15, 2017

LEXINGTON, Va. – The use of deadly force to stop a suspected bank robber in Rockbridge County late last year has been deemed justified.

Rockbridge County and Lexington Commonwealth's Attorney Christopher Billias declared the Dec. 15, 2017 shooting of Robert A. Morrison by officers justified.

Billias stated in a letter to Rockbridge County Sheriff Chris Blalock that there is no question that the officers acted appropriately and reasonably under the circumstances when they killed Morrison.

READ THE FULL LETTER

This was not Morrison's first bank robbery, according to Billias.

He had been released earlier in 2017 after a 10-year sentence for his second violent robbery. If Morrison was still alive and was convicted, he would have been sentenced to life, as a third violent felony offense, under the three strikes program. 

At 10:50 a.m. on Dec. 15, Morrison walked into the Cornerstone Bank in Rockbridge and announced "This is a robbery," according to Billias. 

Morrison patted down the only customer in the bank, and Billias says Morrison told tellers, "If you want to be home with your families for Christmas, you'll do what I say."

As Morrison slowly exited the bank, Billias says, he remained behind buildings until officers arrived. 

When officers arrived, they announced themselves loudly, clearly and repeatedly and ordered Morrison to drop his weapon, which, at the time, they believed was a revolver-type handgun.

When he failed to do so and  instead crouched in a firing position, officers fired three shots, killing him.

Other officers then arrived to the scene to secure it and be sure there were no more threats. 

Police are now aware that Morrison did not shoot his weapon, however an empty shell casing was found on the scene that did not belong to any of the officers. 

After completion of investigation, officers realized that Morrison was carrying a starter pistol that did not fire. During the robbery, neither witnesses nor police were aware of this. 

No civilians or bystanders were harmed during this incident.  

Due to Morrison's actions, the commonwealth's attorney declared this shooting justified by the officers.