In a detailed report months in the making, Lynchburg’s Commonwealth’s Attorney said Friday he will not pursue criminal charges against the Centra security guard or patient involved in a shooting at Lynchburg General Hospital’s Psychiatric Emergency Center.
After reviewing the evidence and watching security video of the shooting — which he shared with media during a morning news conference — Michael Doucette said he determined no criminal violations occurred during the Jan. 11 shooting. He outlined the findings and his conclusion during a 90-minute presentation to the media that included an 11-page report on the shooting.
“The whole issue before me is whether criminal charges should be placed,” Doucette said at his office in downtown Lynchburg.
“I’m not deciding civil liability. I’m not deciding if Centra administrative policies are smart or good or well handled or were properly handled on the 11th of January. That is not my call to make. My call is solely to make a call on whether there should be criminal charges placed.”
The Psychiatric Emergency Center, located next to the entrance to Lynchburg General Hospital’s emergency department, was opened to the public Nov. 1 to provide round-the-clock care to those experiencing a mental health crisis. It was the result of collaboration between Centra, Horizon Behavioral Health and the Lynchburg Police Department’s Lynchburg-Central Virginia Crisis Intervention Team (CIT).
It has been closed since the shooting.
Amherst County resident Jonathan Warner, 28, voluntarily went to the Lynchburg General Hospital’s emergency department at about 9:30 p.m. Jan. 10, seeking help with a psychological disorder. At about 4:43 the next morning, he was shot four times by Centra security supervisor Wesley Gillespie after an altercation in the Psychiatric Emergency Center.
He now is paralyzed from the waist down.
Warner’s mother Ruth Ann Warner called Doucette biased.
“I’m livid. I’m mortified by his decision and I think he has no courage to do what is just,” she said Friday evening.
In response to accusations of bias made during the investigation, Doucette said he consulted with three other commonwealth’s attorneys. Roanoke Commonwealth’s Attorney Donald Caldwell, Virginia Beach Commonwealth Attorney Colin Stolle and Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor each independently reviewed the case and video. Doucette said each came to the same conclusion.
Doucette also addressed allegations the Lynchburg Police Department could not fairly investigate the case because Wesley Gillespie previously worked for the department. Doucette said Gillespie was a Lynchburg police officer in the 1970s until he was wounded in the line of duty and he later became chaplain for the department. Doucette said no one currently at the department worked alongside Gillespie; his son, an LPD lieutenant, specifically was excluded from any aspect of the investigation.
According to the details of the investigation released by Doucette, Warner voluntarily went to the Lynchburg General Hospital emergency department at about 9:30 p.m. Jan. 10 and was assessed by one of Centra’s emergency room physicians at 10:46 p.m.
Based on what Warner told the physician and his behavior, staff asked an emergency custody order be issued on Warner’s behalf. An ECO from a magistrate allows law enforcement to take people who need mental health care — but are unwilling or unable to volunteer for that care — to a facility for an evaluation.
A roughly two-hour evaluation by a Horizon Behavioral Health counselor followed, during which Warner asked to be transferred to the Psychiatric Emergency Center next door.
The medical team determined Warner was “actively psychotic” but it would not serve him with the ECO because he was voluntarily going to the Psychiatric Emergency Center.
Gillespie, a special conservator of the peace, and another Centra security officer escorted Warner to the Psychiatric Emergency Center at about 4:15 a.m. Jan. 11.
Gillespie leaves the Psychiatric Emergency Center but minutes later is called and asked to come back to speak with Warner. Doucette said the two men talked about religion when Gillespie returned.
At 4:26, Centra nurse Melea Moore warned security officer Jason Bryan something bad was about to happen and he needed to remove his badge, a nearby pen and his phone. According to Doucette, Moore warned Bryan to remove those items because they could be used as weapons.
At 4:31, Moore told the Centra pharmacy “it was imperative” medication be dispensed for Warner. She then sent the Horizon intake officer Erin Rudder to tell the pharmacy a “Code Atlas” — meaning patient out of control, officer needs help — was going to happen within minutes if medicine was not made available.
Moore then “went back into the medication room in an effort to get the medication from the Accudose system. She knew at that point ‘it was a race against the clock.’ She kept entering and re-entering Warner’s name into the system but was unsuccessful in obtaining the medications,” according to the report.
Because Centra’s computer system indicated Warner was in the emergency room and not in the Psychiatric Emergency Center, and Admissions could not be reached, the pharmacy department did not dispense the medication, according to Doucette’s report.
During this time, Warner can be seen in the video pacing back and forth in front of the desk at the Psychiatric Emergency Center.
Another 12 minutes pass.
At 4:43 a.m. Warner appears, in the video, to lunge for Gillespie’s gun. Gillespie pulls his Taser from his holster and Warner pulls the Taser from Gillespie’s hand.
The video shows Warner firing it at, and missing, Bryan and chasing him into an adjacent treatment room.
When Warner comes out of the treatment room, he points the Taser at Gillespie and Gillespie points his gun at Warner. At some point during the altercation, according to Doucette, Bryan’s hearing aid battery goes dead.
From about six to seven feet away, Gillespie shoots Warner in the right thigh. Warner continues toward Gillespie, who fires a second shot that grazes Warner’s chest and goes through his arm. The course of the third shot is unclear in the video, but Doucette said it goes into Warner’s chest.
At that point Warner falls to the ground face down landing “on his knees and elbows but almost immediately began to get back up,” according to the report.
Gillespie shoots him a fourth time in the back. The fourth shot, Doucette said, paralyzes Warner. That bullet remains lodged in Warner’s spine, his family said.
According to the report, Bryan, who is hearing impaired, is able to hear the shots.
The altercation — and four shots — are over in 45 seconds.
“I know that facing charges or not facing charges in this matter can be a tough call. I’m going to get some flak. I get that,” Doucette said, adding he has been called on to seek charges against both men by different parties.
“But at the end of the day, it’s my decision to make. It’s a tough decision. I’ve got to basically make it on the facts that are before us and call it basically the way we see it,” Doucette said.
“Any criminal charge must be based on the facts and those facts must be of a sufficient weight that they will probably convince a judge and jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant has engaged in criminal conduct and anything less is not enough.”
Doucette said Gillespie acted in self defense.
“Is it reasonable to conclude that Mr. Gillespie perceived some overt act that led him to believe that he or others were in danger of death or serious bodily injury,” Doucette wrote in his report.
“I believe that answer is yes,” he said Friday.
In considering Warner’s role, Doucette said there is no case law to refer to.
“In Mr. Warner’s case, I considered not only the facts as I found them above but considered the fact that he has, and probably will always have, a significant mental illness. … As a result of what happened in the early morning of January 11, he will most likely be paralyzed for life. If he deserves any punishment at all, he has already been punished enough.”
Ruth Ann Warner said Friday “the video is a confirmation of the abuse and excessive force done to Jonathan” and the release of the video through media outlets took away any dignity her son had left.
“Even the way the Commonwealth’s Attorney spoke, I think he degraded my son.”