BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. – No charges will be sought against law enforcement after a 29-year-old woman was fatally shot by officers in Bedford County last year, according to Commonwealth’s Attorney Wes Nance.
In a statement sent out on Monday morning, Nance said that his office’s final conclusion is that the officers acted appropriately and that their use of lethal force was justified in the shooting of Chelsea Kirk on Nov. 7, 2021.
Below is what Nance said in the addendum of his report:
Law enforcement interactions with the mentally ill far too often results in injury or death. Although the use of force in the instance was justified under the laws of Virginia, this is not to conclude that such instances should not be examined and learned from. It is paramount that new tactics, training, and education be investigated in to increase the likelihood of non-lethal outcomes for such encounters. Especially in cases in which the disturbed individual is armed or likely to be armed, this task will consistently be assigned to law enforcement to deal with. Thus, it is incumbent on lawmakers and other stakeholders to assist, outfit and prepare law enforcement with the most up to date training and techniques to allow for peaceful resolutions to mental health crises.Wes Nance, Commonwealth's Attorney, Bedford County
Authorities report that the incident began at about 5:30 p.m. on Saturday when a DWR Conservation Police Officer tried to stop a female motorcyclist who was driving without a helmet and did not have a license plate.
However, when the officer turned on his vehicle’s emergency lights and sirens to get the woman to stop, rather than stopping, she continued driving to a home in the 100 block of Afton Lane in the community of Goodview.
Another officer familiar with Kirk said he tried to get her to come to the door, but she still refused. As the officers went to leave, all three said they heard gunshots from inside the home and didn’t know if Kirk had shot at someone inside the home or at the officers.
Authorities said Kirk came outside several times and shot into the air, held a firearm to her own head and brandished it toward multiple officers and troopers. They also said that she yelled for law enforcement to shoot her and directed threats at them.
Kirk’s family told authorities that they were upset they were not allowed to enter the area in an attempt to calm Kirk, because they believe they could have brought a peaceful end to the situation. However, law enforcement agencies said they could not allow anyone in the area while Kirk was armed and emotionally distressed.
In the report, Nance said that in her Facebook livestream of the event, Kirk went back and forth “from being belligerent to despondent multiple times in the videos.” He also said that she made several statements that indicated she intended to have her life taken by law enforcement. In addition, Nance said that Kirk threatened law enforcement officers during the videos.
Nance said that Kirk’s emotional distress was caused by a variety of factors, including prior diagnoses of several mental health issues as well as substance abuse addictions.
In his report, Nance said that authorities employed non-lethal measures for more than six hours, including several trained negotiators, a bullhorn and a cell phone to communicate with Kirk and officers with prior experience with Kirk were brought in. Several times throughout the process, Kirk asked law enforcement to stop communications so she could think and authorities ceased calls to her for periods of time. The Bedford County Sheriff’s Office said they used two different types of powder projectiles in an effort to get Kirk to leave, but she refused to leave.
Authorities said that Kirk then told them if they gave her 15 minutes, she would leave the trailer. As authorities waited, they said they saw a fire start in her bathroom.
As the fire grew, Kirk then left her home and authorities asked her to show her hands. Authorities said she was then seen taking her right hand and getting a handgun before pointing it at law enforcement. Authorities then shot at Kirk, who fell back toward the burning trailer. Officers then said they rushed to her, pulled her away from the fire and tried CPR. She then later died.
Kirk’s family said that authorities started the fire, but according to Nance’s report, there is recorded radio chatter of the fire starting and crews being advised of the fire before the final confrontation in Kirk’s front yard.
Kirk’s family also alleged that Kirk was killed because she was exposing secrets on Facebook, but Nance said that in the videos reviews in preparation for the report, no new allegations of misconduct were alleged by Kirk that could be inferred as motivation for her being killed.
In his report, Nance said that after cross-referencing multiple forms of evidence he found no factual merit to the Kirk family’s claims and that the timeline provided by law enforcement was consistent with real-time notes.