VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Prosecutors in Virginia Beach say a police officer was justified when he shot a man who later died after an hours-long standoff in February.
On Monday afternoon, Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle released the findings of an independent investigation into the Feb. 9 shooting death of Jeffrey D. Tyree, 57.
“Based upon the law and the substantial evidence in this matter, it is my opinion that the Detective was within his legal authority and was justified in the use of deadly force in the situation…,” Stolle wrote.
The 4-page letter gives a summary of events from before officers arrived to the Medical Examiner’s cause of death.
“We’ll see [the city] in court,” said Phillip Tyree, Jeffrey Tyree’s older brother, after reading the report.
Tyree told 10 On Your Side by phone that the family has hired an out-of-state attorney to represent them in a civil suit. Tyree does not agree with all of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s findings and didn’t expect to.
“No … that’s the way politics is in Virginia Beach,” Tyree said.
Virginia Beach police say they responded to the 5700 block of Paiute Road just after 11 a.m. that day, for a man who was trying to harm himself with a knife.
The report released on Monday states Tyree’s family members had several “concerning encounters” with him in the days leading up to Feb. 9.
Tyree was not happy with the care his mother was getting, and this resulted in several “hostile confrontations” and threats toward family members, Stolle said in his report. Tyree was mainly angry with his brother, who was their mother’s primary caregiver, the report states.
Tyree said if he had an opportunity to do so he would “kick his (brother’s) butt.” The two got into a fight the morning of Feb. 8.
The report cites family members as saying Tyree had previously received inpatient mental health treatment.
Tyree’s brother tried to obtain an emergency committal order based on his brother’s history and behavior at the time, but was not successful because he had no documentation of a mental condition, the report states.
On the morning of Feb. 9, Tyree’s sister found the 57-year-old sitting on the front porch of the home where their brother and mother lived. Tyree became “very confrontational” with his sister, discussed his anger at his brother and was described as “ranting and raving,” according to the report.
Tyree threatened to harm himself, stated he wasn’t going to jail and “would be going to the morgue.” He then began pushing and spitting in the face of his sister. She left the home and called Virginia Beach police, the report states.
Officers arrived at the home shortly before 11:15 a.m. and did not see anyone there initially. Tyree’s brother eventually arrived at the home and started to walk officers toward the side of the house when Tyree appeared, the report states.
Tyree had a large knife in his hand and was agitated. He ordered the officers to get off the property and demanded to know why they would have brought his brother there.
Tyree was in an area that had a waist-high chain fence. He placed the knife to his throat and threatened to kill himself. Officers called for help, leading to what would become a standoff that lasted around two and a half hours, according to the report.
An officer started talking to Tyree in an effort to get him to drop the knife. He formed a rapport with Tyree and was the person the 57-year-old preferred to talk with as the situation developed, the report states.
A member of the crisis negotiation team also responded and assisted the officer in his conversations with Tyree. The officers offered to get Tyree help and tried to get him to put the knife down, but he refused, the report states.
From time to time, Tyree did place the knife at his feet, but he would quickly pick it back up again and repeatedly put the knife to his throat. Tyree told officers about his brother and said he wanted his siblings to watch him die and that he was going to kill himself. At one point, Tyree said he would harm an officer if he needed to in order to get a “suicide by cop,” the report states.
Officers were eventually able to convince Tyree to place the knife down and come to the fence to get a pack of cigarettes. An officer drew his gun and kept it in a “ready low” position as Tyree approached the fence with the knife in his hand.
An officer who was out of Tyree’s sight behind a shed in the neighbor’s yard hopped the fence after Tyree placed the knife down in an effort to keep him separated from the knife. The officer speaking with Tyree saw this and tried to wave him off, the report states.
Tyree picked the knife back up before he was tackled. The officer speaking with Tyree and a sergeant who was standing there stated they saw Tyree raise his hand with the knife in a position where he could strike the approaching officer, according to the report.
The report states the officer speaking with Tyree fired his gun once believing the other officer’s life was in danger, striking Tyree in the top of his left shoulder.
Tyree was treated on scene before he was transported to a hospital, where he later died. An autopsy found Tyree died from the gunshot wound to the torso.
The report from the Commonwealth’s Attorney states that Tyree was a danger to himself and those around him. The report states that the officer’s actions in shooting Tyree were reasonable and justified.
“I don’t agree with it and the time it took them has me suspicious,” Tyree said. “I have lots of questions and not a lot of answers.”