Virginia State Police respond to criticism of how troopers arrested Matthew Bernard

Bernard was naked, in 'obvious mental distress'

Credit: Chatham Star-Tribune
Credit: Chatham Star-Tribune

PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. – Many people have asked what led state troopers to just run around triple murder suspect Matthew Bernard before his arrest Tuesday, rather than being more direct.

On Wednesday, Virginia State Police explained why they took the approach they did when it came to arresting Bernard.

State police were assisting the Pittsylvania County Sheriff's Office with the manhunt when police say Bernard came running out of the woods in an aggressive manner toward the media staging area.

A trooper staged with the media initially confronted the naked individual and then pursued the man on foot.

The murder suspect was not in possession of a weapon and was in obvious mental distress, according to Sgt. Rick Garletts, with Virginia State Police. 

Garletts explained rather than using violent means, state police are trained to first attempt to deescalate a situation with an individual who is displaying obvious mental distress.

The trooper used the equipment at his disposal, which included pepper spray and a baton.

The trooper did not have a Taser as only members of state police tactical teams are equipped with them.

Furthermore, Garletts explained that troopers are trained to maintain a safe distance from a suspect in order to prevent that person from gaining access to a trooper's weapons. 
The trooper purposely made a tactical retreat, chose nonlethal means and tried to engage with him verbally.

Eventually, Bernard was taken to the ground with the assistance of a state police K-9 and two other troopers.

At that time, he was taken into custody without further incident and turned over to the Sheriff's Office.

As in any use of force case, this incident is under review.

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