Lynchburg officers will not be charged after fatally shooting woman
The woman was armed with a knife
LYNCHBURG, Va. – A special prosecutor has determined that a Lynchburg officer was justified in fatally shooting a woman.
54-year-old Lynchburg resident Pamela Webber was shot on November 6 after a standoff with police at a home on Triangle Place. Officers were responding to a call about a suicidal person. The 911 caller said a woman was armed with a knife and had already harmed herself. The caller also said there was another person inside the home in extreme danger.
The Commonwealth's Attorney for Virginia Beach was appointed as a special prosecutor for the case.
The investigation reviewed body camera footage, photos, diagrams, numerous interviews, and the autopsy report.
After review, the special prosecutor determined that Officer Nathan Hendrix was acting in defense of himself and other officers on scene when he fired his gun. Hendrix was justified in shooting, and was acting within his legal authority, the special prosecutor said.
Hendrix will not be charged.
The other officers the Lynchburg Police Department says used force in the incident, S.L. Duncan and J.B. Spaeth, will not be charged either.
Both Duncan and Hendrix have returned to regular duty, while Spaeth is no longer with the department.
When officers responded to the call initially, they found a small pool of blood in the living room, as Webber had cut herself. Webber locked herself in the bathroom and refused to come out. Officers also found what they believed to be a meth pipe. The caller told police that Webber had a mental illness.
For over three hours, police say they tried to talk Webber into putting down the knife and coming out of the bathroom. Webber refused to cooperate, and, according to the special prosecutor, made statements such as, "I'm a sociopath. Sociopaths don't hurt themselves; they hurt others," and "I want the violence."
Webber stuck the blade of the knife through a gap between the top of the door and the frame. She told police she had consumed a "white powder substance." She said she didn't know what she took, but it wasn't cocaine or crushed up pills.
Webber then made statements like, "Not putting the knife down, gotta come get me," and, "I'm ready, I'm ready," according to the special prosecutor.
The officers developed a plan to tie an extension cord to the handle of the bathroom door in an attempt to open the door. One officer had a foam baton launcher ready, another had a Taser out, and Hendrix had his gun drawn.
The officers pulled the door open and Webber stood in the doorway holding the knife. She was ordered to drop the knife but instead began swinging it violently and advancing at officers, according to the special prosecutor.
One officer deployed the foam baton launcher but that did not stop Webber. Another officer used the Taser, but one of the two probes missed Webber, so it had no effect.
It was at that point that Hendrix shot his gun. He fired three times, hitting her once in the chest.
The medical examiner determined that Webber had several injuries to the arm and neck that are consistent with self-inflicted wounds. A blood analysis showed that there was meth in her system.
The Lynchurg Police Department doesn't strive for these types of outcomes, but said it is the reality they face.
"On a consistent basis and this is not just in the city of Lynchburg, but throughout the country, law enforcement is is coming up against people who are in mental health crises," Lynchburg Police Chief Raul Diaz said. "we're trying to do the best we can dealing with those circumstances, so it's a challenge and we continue to meet that challenge but at the end of the day those folks need help and we're doing the best we can to accommodate them and help them when they are experiencing a mental health crisis."
Body camera footage of the incident will not be released out of respect for, and at the request of, the family members of the deceased, according to the Police Department.
Copyright 2018 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.