On December 1, 2020, the Winchester Police Department (WPD) was notified by the Virginia State Police and Commonwealth’s Attorney Marc Abrams that no charges would be sought in the officer involved shooting on Massanutten Terrace on November 11th that resulted in the death of 52-year-old Winchester resident Eric Clark.
At the request of Chief John R. Piper, the Virginia State Police (VSP) Bureau of Criminal Investigation was asked to investigate the incident. The VSP presented their comprehensive findings to Mr. Abrams, who issued the attached statement justifying the actions of Corporal S. O’Connor. Chief Piper commended the professionalism and bravery demonstrated by his officers, stating that “If it were not for the actions taken by the men and women of the WPD, other lives may have been lost that day. No one enters the law enforcement profession wanting to take a life; however, when circumstances exist which require the use of deadly force to protect officers or citizens, then our community should feel comfort knowing our officers are well trained, properly equipped, and prepared.”
Now that the investigation has been completed, the WPD will conduct an administrative review of the incident.
From: Marc Abrams, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Winchester
Date: December 1, 2020
For Immediate Release:
Commonwealth’s Attorney Determines Eric Lyn Clark’s Death to be Caused by Justified Shooting by Officer: No Charges to be Sought
The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office for the City of Winchester has determined the death of Eric Lyn Clark to be the result of a justified shooting. Commonwealth Attorney Marc Abrams, along with other attorneys on his staff, have reviewed the investigation report provided by the Culpepper Field Office of the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation as well as other evidence available, including body worn camera videos from the officers involved.
These materials show the following: On November 11, 2020, at 0650 hours, a 911 call was placed to report a male striking his neighbor’s vehicle with a handheld sledgehammer at Hillcrest Apartments located on Massanutten Terrace in the City of Winchester. Two officers from the WPD initially responded and spoke with the complaining witness in the parking lot of the apartment complex. At that time, a male who was later identified as Eric Lyn Clark appeared on the porch of 2450 Massanutten Terrace, Apt. A, with an AR 15 style rifle. The officers immediately took cover behind a parked vehicle in the parking lot and attempted to talk to Clark. Clark would not respond to the officers’ requests to talk to them. As another responding officer was pulling into the apartment complex, Clark began firing at the officer’s marked patrol car. The patrol car was struck seven times and the building behind was struck at least three times. The officer operating the patrol vehicle was trapped inside her vehicle due to the proximity of armed Clark who was still on the porch. More responding officers began to set up a perimeter around the apartment complex.
Cpl. S. O’Connor positioned himself around a building to a new position directly across from Clark’s apartment and repeatedly told Clark to put the rifle down. Clark did not adhere to Cpl. O’Connor’s commands. Clark shouldered the rifle aiming it in the direction of Cpl. O’Connor and the officer trapped in the car just in front of and to the left of his position. Cpl. O’Connor notified his supervising sergeant, that he had a good shot, and the Sergeant instructed Cp. O’Connor to take the shot. Cpl. O’Connor fired one round towards Clark and again told him to put down the gun. When he did not comply, Cpl. O’Connor then fired another round and Clark fell into the doorway of his apartment. Shortly afterward, a team of officers approached Clark and his apartment. One of the first officers placed handcuffs on Clark, who was laying just inside his apartment on his right side. Other officers then cleared the apartment. Clark was pronounced dead at the scene by an EMT at 0721 hours.
After a search warrant was executed by the state police, 14 cartridge casings were found in Clark’s apartment and around the porch area that matched the ammunition in Clark’s rifle. The rifle was found lying just below the porch in a mulch bed. The rifle contained a loaded magazine containing 11 rounds, a live round in the chamber and was on “fire”. Another loaded magazine was located just inside the doorway of the apartment. Upon searching Clark’s apartment, two holes were noticed in the drywall. A handheld sledgehammer was found that had drywall dust on the face of the hammer. No other firearms or ammunition were found in the apartment. Upon executing an additional search warrant on Clark’s vehicle, which was parked in front of his apartment, one large green ammunition can and one smaller ammunition can were found, along with a black plastic rifle case that had a corresponding serial number that matched the rifle lying in the mulch bed. The ammunition cans contained magazines and a large quantity of loose ammunition. No notes or messages were found in Clark’s apartment or vehicle.
Analyses or reports of the following materials are outstanding:
- The officer’s patrol rifle and Mr. Clark’s rifle will be analyzed with bullets recovered at Mr. Clark’s autopsy and from the officer’s vehicle by the Department of Forensic Science.
- The autopsy and toxicology reports will be provided by the Office Of The Chief Medical Examiner; and
- Two cellular phones recovered in Mr. Clark’s home will be analyzed by the Virginia State Police.
However, these reports are unnecessary for the determination of the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney that the officer’s actions in this case were clearly Justified. The officer shot after a fellow officer was shot at and pinned down. Other officers at the scene were vulnerable to deadly force as was the officer who shot Mr. Clark. Such a death is always tragic, but the police action taken may have saved lives. Therefore, based on all the evidence provided, it is the position of the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney that no charges will be presented to the Grand Jury pertaining to this matter. The office sends its deepest condolences to the family for the loss of their loved one.