No Charges in Virginia Officer-Involved Shooting

Jon Ellis
Updated: January 10, 2019 05:51 PM

A prosecutor has decided that a Virginia police officer acted in self-defense, and no charges will be filed, after a shooting death last November.


J. Scot Alan Widmark, 41, died as a result from a single gunshot wound to his head.  Investigators say Widmark, who had methamphetamines and an opioid in his system, held a man hostage at knifepoint during a standoff with police.

St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin made the decision not to file charges against Officer Nicholas Grivna after former Assistant County Attorney Vernon D. Swanum conducted an initial review of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension's investigation.  Rubin said the officer "displayed superb training, courage, restraint, compassion, and professionalism and his actions were justified, lawful and therefore authorized under the law."

LINK: Initial report: Police Officer, Deceased Man in Fatal Virginia Officer-Involved Shooting Identified

According to Swanum's synopsis, the incident began around 5 p.m. on Nov. 27 when Widmark forced his way into a parked car occupied by a woman on 3rd Avenue West just south of 2nd Street South.

The woman ran from the car, called 911, and flagged down a passing driver, who allowed the woman in her car and then pulled up behind the woman's car.  A police squad car arrived five minutes later.

According to the report, Widmark then got out of the vehicle, removed a large knife, approached the other vehicles, but then started to run in the other direction. An officer began to chase Widmark.

The report says a short distance away, Widmark approached a man just south of the intersection of 3rd Avenue West and 3rd Street South, put him in a headlock, brandished the knife, and held the man as a hostage and human shield. The man later told investigators that he believed he was about to die.

Other officers, including Grivna, arrived at the scene.  As police surrounded Widmark, he continued to hold the man hostage and made stabbing motions toward him, the report says.  Grivna attempted to de-escalate the situation by trying to convince Widmark to drop the knife, but Widmark did not respond and began to increase his stabbing-like motions toward the hostage.

Grivna fired his rifle after becoming convinced that the hostage was in imminent danger.  Grivna later told investigators that he had considered using a Taser rather than a firearm, but did not believe it was a reasonable option because the hostage was in front of Widmark, leaving very little of Widmark's body exposed.

An autopsy found the presence of methamphetamine and buprenorphine, a schedule III opioid, in Widmark's blood.  Widmark's brother told investigators that Widmark was suffering from long-term addition to drugs and depression and had been alienated from most family members in recent years.

"Officer Grivna was facing a situation where a private citizen was in grave imminent danger of great bodily harm or death," Swanum wrote in his report.

"The decision by Officer Grivna to use deadly force was well considered, and used as a last resort to protect the life of an innocent civilian.  That use of deadly force was fully justified under statutory, and federal and state case law," Swanum said.


Jon Ellis

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