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Commonwealth’s attorney: Augusta County deputies ‘acted appropriately’ in May 14 shooting

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(© Олександр Луценко – stock.adobe.com)

Did the Augusta County sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed Jeffrey Bruce reasonably feel that he was in danger? “The answer is yes,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Timothy Martin wrote in a final report on his investigation into the death, released late in the workday on Friday.

The unnamed deputy who shot Bruce, a suspect in a May 14 breaking and entering at 35 Blue Fish Lane in Grottoes, wrote that he was “in fear for my life, the most scared that I have ever been in 16 years of doing this line of work,” according to the report.

And he wasn’t alone. According to Martin’s report, Barbara Bruce, the mother of the suspect, told a Virginia State Police investigator that May 14 was the first time that she had been afraid that her son would physically attack her, that he had “looked at her with a wildness in his eyes,” per the report.

She also told the investigator that the man looking at her that day was not her son, “it was the devil,” which the report said was also related by the suspect’s sister, Angela Bruce, who had told the deputy investigating the breaking and entering that day that Bruce, who had served 18 years in prison for the rape of a then-5-year-old relative, had indicated that he would not return to jail, and that on that day, he had “nothing in his eyes,” and that “it was like looking at the devil.”

It was Angela Bruce who had confirmed to the first deputy on the scene that her brother was the person who had broken into and damaged the home at 35 Blue Fish Lane, and that he was known to carry knives and that he had expressed a desire to die at the hands of a police officer.

The deputy, according to the report, called for backup, and when a second deputy arrived on the scene, they heard rustling in the woods nearby, saw Jeffrey Bruce near the tree line, and commanded him to surrender.

Bruce didn’t comply, and the deputies followed him a long distance into the woods, eventually losing sight of him.

They would find him in tall grass lying face down with his hands concealed, and drew their service weapons while ordering him to stay down.

Bruce, instead, stood up, revealing a knife, which the report described as he held like an icepick above his head.

Bruce then screamed and charged at the deputies, who backed up to create space while commanding him to stop.

When he continued, one of the deputies fired four shots, each striking Bruce in the torso.

The deputies removed the nine-inch hunting knife from Bruce’s hands and called for rescue.

The deputy who fired the fatal shots wrote that he “held Jeffrey’s hand until rescue arrived and he passed away.”

“The evidence contained in the report indicates the deputies involved acted appropriately,” Martin concluded.

“Did the deputy reasonably feel that he was in danger? The answer is yes,” Martin wrote in his report. “He indicated that he was in fear for his life, that he had never been that scared in sixteen years of law enforcement.

“Clearly his fear was entirely reasonable, as a man with a deadly weapon raised above his head was running toward him and screaming. The deputy’s actions in this matter were entirely appropriate.”

Story by Chris Graham


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