Officer-involved shooting in Charlottesville deemed 'reasonable and justified'
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- An investigation into an officer-involved shooting of a wanted person in Charlottesville has ended.
The Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office released its report into the Feb. 28, 2023 incident near the Red Roof Inn on Friday.
According to the report, the Commonwealth’s Attorney has determined that the use of deadly force by Albemarle County Police Department officers was reasonable and justified.
In the incident, officers were attempting to arrest Billy James Sites, who was wanted on multiple charges in the city.
Even though this incident involved ACPD officers, because it occurred in the city of Charlottesville, the investigation fell under the purview of the city’s Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.
The investigation found that on Feb. 27, 2023, an ACPD officer spoke with Christina Martinez, who said she was the girlfriend of Sites and who told the officer he had violated a no-contact protective order and made threats of death and bodily harm against her.
Martinez was interviewed and told police that after warrants were issued for Sites’ arrest, she met up with him and got him a hotel room at the Red Roof Inn, acknowledging that she knew she was helping Sites break the law by helping him to avoid arrest.
She told officers that Sites was upset after learning about his father’s recent cancer diagnosis and was not acting like himself.
The next morning, an ACPD detective spotted Sites’ vehicle at the hotel and the police department started trying to determine what room he was in and contacted the Charlottesville Police Department to arrest him.
CPD officers got to the hotel around 10 a.m. and spotted Sites and Martinez in the parking lot.
Sites ignored repeated commands to show his hands, instead backing away from the officers. At that time, one of the officers noticed he was holding a pistol, so the officers took cover and told him to drop the weapon.
Sites ran through the parking lot toward a walking path along the Route 250 Bypass and the officers ran after him.
As he ran away, officers saw Sites raise the gun and fire off a round into the air, which caused the officers to take cover again.
Sites then ran down the path behind the Dominion Power building on Hydraulic Road and fired a second round into the air.
A shelter-in-place order was issued due to the shots that had been fired and a perceived threat to the public.
During negotiations with Sites, it was learned that he wanted to see his father, and if he could not see his father, then he was going to start shooting.
His father did come, and police told Sites he could talk to him if he dropped his gun, but Sites refused.
A short time later, Sites started walking back toward the hotel, and the ACPD SWAT team got between him and the hotel but did not engage with him.
One of the officers fired a non-lethal foam sponge round at Sites in an attempt to keep him away from the hotel, but Sites continued to refuse to surrender or drop his gun.
Officers again tried to talk to Sites, but he still refused to drop the gun, instead trying again to walk toward the hotel when another non-lethal round was fired at him.
Sites then started walking toward the bypass where he climbed a guardrail and walked into the roadway.
Officers were concerned about how close he was getting to a neighborhood and vehicles that had been stopped by a road closure caused by the situation.
A third-non-lethal round was fired at Sites, who then pointed his weapon at SWAT officers.
The investigation found that six ACPD officers fired their guns, hitting Sites.
Sites later died at the University of Virginia Medical Center.
The full report is below:
ACPD Chief Sean Reeves released this statement:
On behalf of the men and women of the Albemarle County Police Department, I would like to acknowledge the time and attention that the Virginia State Police (VSP); the Commonwealth Attorney for Albemarle County, Mr. James Hingeley; and the Commonwealth Attorney for the City of Charlottesville, Mr. Joseph Platania, have spent over the past several months to thoroughly investigate the officer-involved shootings that occurred on August 29, 2022, that involved members of the U.S. Marshal’s Task Force, and on February 28, 2023, that involved ACPD’s SWAT Team.
It is my professional philosophy that when an officer is involved in a shooting in Albemarle County, a request be made for the Virginia State Police to investigate the incident to determine whether or not the shooting was justifiable. Parallel to VSP’s investigation, ACPD conducts an internal investigation to ensure departmental policies are adhered to.
For both shootings, VSP was asked to conduct an investigation. I made the request for the shooting that occurred on August 29, 2022, in Albemarle County, and Chief of Police of the Charlottesville Police Department, Mike Kochis, and Charlottesville’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, Joseph Platania, asked VSP to investigate the shooting that occurred on February 28, 2023, in the City. As identified in the reports from Commonwealth’s Attorney Hingeley and Commonwealth’s Attorney Platania, these investigations were conducted with full transparency and cooperation of the Albemarle County Police Department.
The officers involved in these events were placed in life-threatening situations when confronted by armed individuals who willfully ignored the officers’ instructions to surrender peacefully and directly threatened the lives of the officers and the safety of members of the public. Due to the decisions made by the two individuals, officers were left with no choice but to respond with appropriate force to neutralize an immediate threat. The Commonwealth Attorneys' findings that detail each of these circumstances can be found here and here.
As Chief of Police, I stand by the actions of these brave officers and appreciate the tremendous support from our community as we collectively continue to recover from these events.
ACPD’s senior leadership has met with the family of Mr. Sites to discuss the events of February 28, 2023. At this time, ACPD is not inclined to release body-worn camera footage from this tragic incident.
Again, I would like to extend my appreciation to the Virginia State Police, Commonwealth’s Attorney James Hingeley, and Commonwealth’s Attorney Joseph Platania for their thorough review of these incidents. While these events ended with the tragic loss of life, I am truly grateful that no officers or community members were injured or killed during these incidents.