Deputies involved in a late-night shooting Tuesday on Whippoorwill Road describe a harrowing scene of an ambush along a dark and woodsy driveway. So dark was the night deputies had to look for the light of gunfire to identify where the suspect was hiding.
Two deputies, along with the suspect, were shot. One deputy was released. The other is in serious condition at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, where the suspect is also listed in serious condition.
Wythe County sheriff’s deputies were called to the home at in the 500 block of Whippoorwill Road shortly before 10 p.m. Maj. Anthony Cline with the sheriff’s office said that the suspect’s wife called 911 to report that during an argument her husband had fired a gun in the house. She took her daughter and ran from the home, a log house at the end of a winding asphalt driveway.
According to Cline, officers, believing the suspect was still in the home, gathered at the top of the driveway.
He and a Virginia State Police trooper hopped in a state police armored personnel carrier and started down the driveway. A group of law enforcement officers followed.
“We were going to negotiate, tell him to come out with your hands up, that kind of thing,” Cline said.
What officers did not know is that the suspect was hiding in the woods to the left of the driveway, pointing a semi-automatic rifle at them.
As the vehicle approached the house and after the other officers had passed him, the suspect opened fire on the group, striking 15-year department veteran Sgt. Chris Coleman just past his bulletproof vest, 2 inches from his spine. Another bullet grazed Chief Deputy Charles Foster in the right arm. Metal that bounced off the Bearcat when it was hit by a bullet burned the area near the eye of Cpl. Jennifer Brewster, the first deputy to spot the suspect in the woods, according to Wythe County Sheriff Keith Dunagan.
Officers quickly shot at the suspect, striking him multiple times.
“We are lucky we don’t have three or four dead deputies today,” Dunagan said Wednesday, adding that alcohol was probably a factor in the incident.
The Virginia State Police is investigating the shooting and will determine charges, said Cline, who drove Coleman to the Wythe County Community Hospital in an ambulance as paramedics worked on the deputy.
A law enforcement officer confirmed that the suspect was involved in a domestic incident 10 years ago that is eerily similar to last night’s shooting.
According to a 2010 Daytona Beach News-Journal report, the suspect, then a Daytona Beach police officer, threatened to kill himself during a domestic dispute and told his then-wife that he would shoot other officers if they came into the residence.
In that episode, according to the report, the man fired a round through the ceiling of the home.
The suspect’s wife was able to take the two handguns from her husband during that episode, collect her personal weapon and his service revolver, and run outside, the report says. Deputies with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office were then able to coax the unarmed suspect outside where he was taken into custody.
According to the report, the man, who served in Iraq in 2004, had been taking medication that treats major depressive disorders.
Wytheville Enterprise reporter Jasmine Franks contributed to this report.