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'We could have done better’: Lynchburg police say after internal investigation into 2018 shooting

Read open-door response policy, Walker Sigler statement

LYNCHBURG, Va. – The Lynchburg Police Department has completed its internal investigation related to the February 17, 2018 Link Road incident.

The man who was shot, Walker Sigler, recently settled a $12 million lawsuit with the police department.

On that day, Sigler was in his home at 1:30 a.m. when he was shot in the leg by Lynchburg Officer Savannah Simmons, according to the lawsuit.

At the time the shot was fired, the lawsuit claimed, the front door to Sigler’s home was closed and officers at the scene unreasonably used deadly force.

Regarding the two officers involved, Edward Ferron and Savannah Simmons, Ferron voluntarily resigned from the department before the suit was filed in June.

After being placed on administrative leave without pay, Simmons resigned, effective Sept. 20, 2019.

On Thursday, the department announced what policies have been added to training.

They involve what to do when officers encounter open doors.

"From the training perspective we’re making sure that the officers, first and foremost have reviewed this policy. We have an electronic system internally that requires the officer to go in, read through the policy then they actually answer test questions on that in order to “pass” that,” Zudiema said.

Chief Ryan Zudiema says he wanted to make sure all criminal and civil lawsuits were done before he could say anything after the investigation.

After this incident LPD used a 2005 case (Kyer vs. Commonwealth) as reference to change its open-door training and the help of special prosecutor Bryan Porter from Alexandria.

It was finalized last month.

The chief says every sworn officer is aware of it and will be required to take an online test and pass.

This applies to the 13 officers in the academy right now and eight who are not on the road yet.

"What happens when police officers get done in the police academy, they graduate I think the assumption is they automatically just go and hit the streets,” Zuidema said. “Well in Lynchburg, we keep them in for about a month internally to review policy, to review procedures. All those new officers before they go out on the street will have reviewed all that policy as well.”

The department says its last scenario-based training was done last spring.

Walker Sigler’s attorney, John E. Lichtenstein Greg Lyons Counsel sent a statement to 10 News saying:

The lawsuit Mr. Sigler had the courage to pursue in federal court appears to have resulted in changes in policy announced today by the Lynchburg Police Department. These changes directly reflect allegations presented in Mr. Sigler’s federal action which set forth the severe violations of his constitutional rights. The consequences of these violations to Mr. Sigler and his family are permanent and devastating. This legal action was concluded in a manner which reflects the seriousness of these violations and the gravity of Mr. Sigler’s injuries and losses. The Siglers’ hope and intent is that the effect of this case and the resulting announced changes in policy mean that this will never happen to anyone again.

New policies instituted by the Lynchburg Police Department in response to the internal investigation regarding the Feb. 17, 2018 shooting in Lynchburg, Virginia.
New policies instituted by the Lynchburg Police Department in response to the internal investigation regarding the Feb. 17, 2018 shooting in Lynchburg, Virginia. (WSLS)
New policies instituted by the Lynchburg Police Department in response to the internal investigation regarding the Feb. 17, 2018 shooting in Lynchburg, Virginia.
New policies instituted by the Lynchburg Police Department in response to the internal investigation regarding the Feb. 17, 2018 shooting in Lynchburg, Virginia. (WSLS)

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