Officers were entitled to use deadly force in Covington Farm & Fuel shooting, official says

The shooting left an officer, a bystander, and the suspect dead

The Alleghany County Commonwealth's Attorney released her findings today

COVINGTON, Va. – The Alleghany County Commonwealth’s Attorney has released her conclusions based on the investigation following a shooting in Covington that left three dead back in March.

Ann Gardener, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Alleghany County, released a statement on Wednesday with more details on the investigation.

Officer Caleb Ogilvie, bystander Randy Paxton, and suspect Toney Poulston Jr. were all killed during the March 14 shooting, 10 News reported.

According to Gardener, these are the details of the tragic incident that occurred on March 14:

  • 4:45 p.m. (approximate): The owner of Covington Farm and Fuel called 911 to report a man “high on drugs” and to have him removed from the property. The call was disconnected, and dispatchers called back. A woman answered, then dispatchers were able to speak with Randal Paxton, who said the man was his stepson, Toney Poulston, Jr., and Paxton said that he was armed with a gun.
  • 4:47 p.m. (approximate): Officers Caleb Ogilvie and Justin Jefferson responded initially, and dispatchers had told them Poulston was armed. Corporal Jefferson asked dispatch to call the Alleghany County Sheriff’s Office for backup. Officer Ogilvie arrived from the south and Corporal Jefferson arrived from the north. After he arrived, Officer Ogilvie walked to the glass front door, when the owner opened the door and warned him that Poulston was armed.
  • 4:48 p.m.:
    • After Officer Ogilvie went inside, Poulston shot Paxton from behind, execution-style. The homicide was recorded on store surveillance as well as the officer’s bodycam. In the video, two women and a man were inside the store close by, and another was at the cash register. The video showed one customer running away, and another hiding inside the store. After Paxton fell to the ground, Officer Ogilvie radioed “shots fired” as the owner fled past him.
    • Officer Ogilvie began to leave the store and run toward Corporal Jefferson, who was approaching the store. As both officers began to retreat, Poulston came out and began shooting at both of them. At this point in the video, two people fled on foot and a car could be seen driving away. Officer Ogilvie made it away from the door when he raised his weapon, but he fell to the ground after initial shots. Corporal Jefferson attempted to return fire while taking cover and radioing “officer down” to dispatch.
    • The video showed that after firing multiple shots at the officers, Poulston went back into the store and ducked to take cover. Three people were still inside the store when Poulston returned, and they escaped through a back exit. Another civilian still hiding inside was able to call 911.
  • After ten minutes:
    • Poulston could be seen on video smoking cigarettes and drinking beer while pacing and peering out the windows. There were audile sirens, visible lights, and multiple law enforcement vehicles surrounding the store. A law enforcement officer outside could see Poulston looking out, and the officers were then made aware of the suspect’s identity.
    • Responding law enforcement positioned themselves behind vehicles outside for cover – two sergeants took cover beside a black Ford with a woman inside covering her ears, a twelve-year-old girl who had seen Officer Oglivie being shot was crouched beside the deputies and was able to describe Poulston’s weapon to them. Corporal Jefferson and another corporal were positioned behind another vehicle, and a person was crouched beside them and recounted that he saw the white male run out of the store and shoot at the officer who had initially responded (Officer Oglivie). The person also said that he heard officers yelling commands for the man to come out with his hands in the air, which a deputy and others nearby confirmed. Another deputy was positioned near Corporal Jefferson while she gave bystanders commands due to concern for their safety. Major Casey Gibson was directing other officers to clear bystanders. Covington Police Detective Richard Baker arrived and took cover behind a vehicle as well.
  • Poulston came out of the store “violent and fast” while pointing his handgun at officers and bystanders, then ran to the driver’s side door of a pick-up truck in the parking lot. He fired a shot at the crowd in his exit toward the truck. In response, the six responding officers returned fire. When Poulston fell to the ground, officers called a “ceasefire.” After the officers determined that Poulston was no longer a threat, the law enforcement cleared the area and requested an independent investigation by Virginia State Police, who secured the scene and moved forward with the investigation.

Gardener cited a law enacted by the Virginia General Assembly that states deadly force may be used by officers if, “The law enforcement officer reasonably believes that deadly force is immediately necessary to protect the law enforcement officer or another person, other than the subject of the use of deadly force, from the threat of serious bodily injury or death.”

In conclusion, Gardener said that the officers fired their weapons in reasonable apprehension of Poulston shooting and killing or wounding one or more of the people on the scene.

“Clearly, they reasonably perceived an imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm for themselves as well as others,” Gardener said.

Because of the circumstances, Gardener said the law overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that these officers were entitled to use deadly force, that the law enforcement officers’ responses were justifiable in defending themselves and others at the scene, and that no criminal charges will be brought against any of the six officers involved.

About the Author:

Alli Graham came aboard the digital team as an evening digital content producer in June 2022.