A special prosecutor investigating the shooting death of Vincent James Lumia III by Virginia State Master Trooper Andrew O’Connor on Jan. 12 says the actions by the trooper were justified because Lumia — suffering from bipolar disorder and stoned on marijuana — created a situation that left O’Connor with no other choice.
Salem Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Bowers — who took over the case after Floyd prosecutor Stephanie Shortt recused herself — said Tuesday that O’Connor acted out of a belief that Lumia’s actions put the State Trooper and three Floyd County deputies at risk and in fear for their lives and the safety of others.
O’Connor fired at Lumia after the Patrick County man, behind the wheel of a Ford Explorer, rammed the door of a cottage on the property of his stepfather and mother in Floyd County, then rammed a sheriff’s department cruiser head-on and attempted to push it into another cruiser.
O’Connor heard deputy William Justin Coleman yell and thought he had been hit in the melee. As Lumia continued to try and run the officers down, the State Trooper fired five times, striking Lumia twice in the head and also in the forearm and wrist. He died at the scene.
Bowers said O’Connor told him:
He came straight at me. I was in fear of my life and the deputies’ lives too. I thought he was going to kill me. I thought he could have already killed Justin.
O’Connor, Coleman and deputies Chad Harris and Tommy Turman responded to a 911 call from John Beasley, Lumia’s stepfather. Beasley said Lumia was trying to drive his SUV through the front door of thier home.
Bowers called the events “a tragic situation” but said Lumia’s actions put people in danger and left officers with deadly force as the only action.
Police searched Lumia’s Patrick County home and found a marijuana factory with 996 plants. A toxicology report found Lumia heavily under the influence of grass when he died. He also suffered from bipolar disorder and was not taking his medication when he created the situation that ended his life.
O’Connor is on administrative duty until the State Police finishes its own internal review.
(Update: I originally criticized the State Police Policy that withheld O’Connor’s name until the investigation was complete. Another State Trooper in the county filled me in on the reasons for the policy and I now understand and support the reasons. I removed the comments from my earlier article and apologize to Trooper O’Connor.)