Former police officer’s analysis sheds light on Roanoke officer-involved shooting

41-year-old Travis Martin was shot and killed by police Saturday

ROANOKE, Va. – From threats against police to brandishing an ax or hatchet to finally, a fatal shooting — Saturday was an eventful day in Roanoke.

It all started at the police station, when 41-year-old Travis Martin allegedly drove by the police station, making threats to kill the officers outside.

The officer-involved shooting is still under investigation, but we wanted more insight into what goes through an officer’s head in these types of situations.

“He made a 911 call and threatened to kill all Roanoke City Police officers. He then called back a few minutes later and also threatened to kill our E-911 center dispatchers,” Police Chief Scott Booth said in a press conference Saturday.

Monday, 10 News spoke with Dr. Tod Burke, a criminology expert and former law enforcement officer, to dive deeper into what happened.

“With someone who’s made a threat to the officers, it sounded like this was predetermined that no matter what happened, this person wanted a confrontation with the police,” Burke said.

Police tell us things started hours before the shooting, first with the threats, then several hours later, Martin was seen damaging a police car.

With warrants out for his arrest, officers made a traffic stop, where they said Martin moved towards them with an ax or hatchet.

But Burke said no matter if it’s a gun or an ax, it’s considered a deadly weapon.

“There becomes a distance factor. How far from the officers are the individuals, what type of weapon they have,” Burke said.

Burke tells me it’s a split-second decision.

“That hesitation could not only affect that individual you’re trying to deal with, but also the other officers’ safety, and the community’s safety,” he said.

He said the investigation that’s already underway will look at every scenario, and if the officer had another option.

“Could the officers have done something else, knowing they had been alerted to the situation,” he said.

And as for if the shooting was justified? Well, Burke said that’s just a legal term.

“You’re talking about department policy, and all of these things and all of the training that a police officer goes through, it goes through their minds, again, in a split second, and they want to be able to get this right,” he said.

This is still very early on in the investigation, so information is pretty limited from state police, but we will let you know more as the investigation moves on.

About the Author

Abbie Coleman officially joined the WSLS 10 News team in January 2023.

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