The Virginia State Police investigation into an officer-involved shooting that wounded a Wythe County deputy has been completed.
Wythe County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Jones determined that the Nov. 14, 2018, shooting death of Olajuwon Murphy at the Greyhound Bus Station in Fort Chiswell was justified.
Wythe County Deputy Jacob Goins was shot in the leg during the incident and is rehabilitating.
The letter paints a dramatic early morning scene with Murphy firing at officers from two guns and heroics on the part of Goins and Virginia State Trooper Cory Martin, who pulled Goins to safety. An injured Goins then covered for Martin as the trooper reloaded his weapon, killing Murphy.
In a Dec. 19 letter to Capt. J. Joe Daniels, commander of the Virginia State Police’s Fourth Division, Jones discussed evidence in the case that led him to determine that no prosecution is necessary. He said he has read reports and reviewed statements and photographs from the scene. The letter lays out what transpired on the morning of the shooting.
On Nov. 14 about 12:15 a.m., a Comfort Inn clerk reported that a black man wearing a black hoodie with stripes down the sleeves had pointed a gun at her and demanded money from the cash register. She gave him the cash, and he ran out of the hotel toward the interstate exit, the letter said.
Goins was dispatched and arrived on the scene within four minutes, talked with the clerk and began to search for the suspect. Deputies Chance Harrington and Dalton Marshall were also searching. Soon Martin responded to assist, according to the letter.
Goins and Martin decided to expand the search to the bus station.
They entered the station, where a woman told them there was a man in the station near the back wall. The officers observed a man, later identified as Murphy, seated inside.
“Deputy Goins observed the outline of a gun on the left hip of Murphy,” the letter said. “Murphy had his hands in his jacket pockets. Both officers instructed Murphy to stand up and put his hands against the wall … Murphy stood up, but he would not comply with the officers’ instructions completely. At this point, Murphy turned and began to fire a pistol he was holding still inside of his jacket pocket.”
According to the letter, Murphy fired two rounds from his 9 mm pistol before it malfunctioned. The trooper returned fire. Murphy then pulled a second 9 mm pistol from his clothing and continued firing.
“At this point, he struck Deputy Goins in the leg with one of the rounds. Both officers exited the building where Deputy Goins fell from his injury and Trooper Martin was able to drag him to safety, most likely saving his life,” the letter said.
Murphy continued firing at the officers.
The trooper returned fire, while simultaneously seeking cover for him and Goins behind a parked pickup truck.
Murphy followed the officers outside and continued to fire at them.
Martin ran out of ammunition and was attempting to reload when Goins began firing at Murphy while lying injured on the ground. Two of his shots struck Murphy in the chest and Murphy fell to the ground. He died on the scene.
No shots were fired after Murphy fell, the letter said.
During the incident, Murphy fired a total of 14 rounds from two handguns, the investigation showed. Martin fired 13 rounds from his service weapon and Goins fired nine rounds from his.
The woman at the bus stop confirmed that she heard officers tell Murphy at least twice to get his hands out of his pockets, the letter said.
“She said Murphy started shooting for no reason,” it added.
In addition, the bus station attendant heard the officers’ commands, Jones said in the letter.
“Murphy caused the escalation of the incident from a simple investigation into an armed robbery to a shooting incident,” the commonwealth’s attorney wrote. “The officers involved did not fire until fired upon. Murphy had multiple opportunities to comply. Even after striking Deputy Goins, and the officers removed themselves from harm, Murphy followed them out of the building and continued to try to shoot the officers. Considering all of these factors, I feel that the officers’ use of deadly force under these particular circumstances was justified.”
Jones commended Goins and Martin for their “courageous and valiant efforts” in protecting one another and protecting the community at large.
“There is no telling how many lives these officers saved through their actions that night,” he wrote. “Each one protected the other at different points during the course of the incident.”
To reach Millie Rothrock, call 228-6611, ext. 35, or email email@example.com