Fatal shooting: Officer’s actions ‘justified’
A police officer’s decision to shoot a man threatening police with a gun last October was justified, reviews by the Cape Coral Police Department and the State Attorney’s Office released Thursday found.
Rolly Thomas, 34, was fatally injured and his infant son shot in the leg on Oct. 24 after Thomas shot the child’s mother and then repeatedly fired at police during a “protracted” negotiation to get him to come out of the home where his estranged girlfriend lived with their children.
Officer Matthew Mills was unaware Thomas was holding his 7-month-old son, Ray, just outside of view from the doorway, when he pointed a shotgun at police, officials said.
The child has recovered as has his mother. No officers were injured.
“Based upon the investigative reports provided, and the applicable law, I am convinced that the actions of the officer involved in this incident were a legally justifiable use of deadly force, in the defense of himself or others,”?State Attorney Steve Russell wrote in his letter to the CCPD. “Therefore, my office will not be filing any criminal charges in this matter.”
The internal review by the Professional Standards Bureau of the Cape Coral Police Department also concluded that the shooting was justified.
“The totality of the evidence supports the conclusion that Officer Mills was justified in the use of deadly force,” the Standards Bureau report states. “Thomas violated a domestic violence injunction for protection earlier in the evening which required the police to be called. Thomas returned after midnight, forced himself into the residence armed with a pistol and axe and shot Marsha Alexander. Thomas committed multiple forcible felonies….”
The incident began as a domestic disturbance report at a home in the northeast Cape. Despite an injunction for domestic violence and a no contact order, Thomas came to Alexander’ residence and dropped off one of his children, a violation of the order.
Officers responded, but Thomas left before they arrived.
“Shortly before 1 a.m. the CCPD received another call to the residence, an open 9-1-1 line with what sounded like a domestic disturbance in progress,” officials said.
The front door was ajar when officers arrived and one of the children told police Thomas inside.
“Officers could hear two people arguing in a bedroom,” police said. “Seconds later a gunshot rang out and Alexander came running out with an apparent gunshot wound to the chest. Thomas continued firing rounds towards officers through the interior walls of the house. Officers were able to get Alexander and 3 of the children out of the home and to safety.”
Officers took cover and repeatedly tried to get Thomas to surrender to no avail, police said.
“Thomas would talk with Officers, then fire rounds at them from a pistol and a pump-action shotgun,” the release states.
Mills, a 9-year veteran, attempted to continue talking to Thomas but Thomas stepped into the doorway and pointed a shotgun at officers outside the house.
As a result, Mills fired at Thomas with his department-issued rifle, critically wounding him.
Thomas fell but was able to withdraw back into the house. With the assistance of SWAT, officers were later able to make entry into the home where they found the baby who was then transported for medical treatment for a gunshot wound to the thigh.
Police also found another child, asleep in the home, as well as Thomas, who was dead.
The internal review by the Professional Standards Bureau of the CCPD used witnesses, body camera video, the Medical Examiner’s autopsy report and various statements from police to reach its finding.
“The actions of Rolly Thomas on October 24, 2015 were nothing short of horrific,” said interim Police Chief Dave Newlan in a prepared statement released Thursday. “He went to the home that evening armed with a gun and an axe with the intent to kill. The quick actions of the first officers on scene no doubt saved the lives of Marsha Alexander and the first 3 children rescued from the home. The officers did everything they could to engage Rolly Thomas and negotiate a peaceful surrender and the safety of the remaining 2 children, even as he shot at them…”
Mills had little choice and acted as he was trained to do,?Newlan said.
…. “The taking of a life is something we all hope will never happen in our career in law enforcement. Sometimes the actions of a suspect leave us no choice. This was one of those times…”
The family will continue to receive support through the CCPD Victim Assistance Unit, the release states, adding Mills is back to full duty, “doing what he took an oath to do, with the full support of this Department and this community.”