Officer accidentally discharges firearm at two of the College’s law students during traffic stop

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During a Feb. 21 traffic stop involving two Marshall-Wythe School of Law students, a York County-Poquoson Police Department deputy accidentally discharged his firearm, according to a press release from their police department. 

The bullet hit the door of the vehicle but injured no one involved in the stop.

As a result, Law School Dean Davison Douglas and the College of William and Mary’s Student Affairs staff held a discussion Feb. 22 for law students who were frightened by the incident. 

In the press releases later sent out by both the York County-Poquoson and the Williamsburg police departments, a York-Poquoson deputy attempted to stop a vehicle in the vicinity of Advance Auto Parts on Merrimac Trail for not using headlights around 6:40 p.m.

The vehicle had two occupants and came to a stop at the entrance to Parkway Apartments, just over the boundary line that divides the City of Williamsburg and York County.

As the deputy approached the vehicle, he reported that the driver’s door of the vehicle swung open and he discharged his firearm.

The bullet struck the ground, ricocheted and hit the lower portion of the driver’s open door. An investigation is underway, but police have since determined that the discharge was accidental.

However, the deputy has been placed on administrative leave pending the conclusion of the investigation. 

“This was an unfortunate accident with no malice or ill intent towards the occupants of the vehicle. Thankfully no one was injured in this event. We understand how an accidental discharge like this can have an impact on the community and we would like to express our sincerest apology to anyone who has been negatively impacted by this.”

“Anything than a less than perfect response regarding an interaction between police and citizens is something that should be reviewed,” York County-Poquoson Sheriff J.D. “Danny” Diggs said in a press statement. “This was an unfortunate accident with no malice or ill intent towards the occupants of the vehicle. Thankfully no one was injured in this event. We understand how an accidental discharge like this can have an impact on the community and we would like to express our sincerest apology to anyone who has been negatively impacted by this.” 

Diggs also concluded that the deputy, whose name is being withheld by the department, was not aiming his firearm at either of the car’s occupants at the time it was discharged. 

In a separate press release, Williamsburg Police Department officer John Heilman said that Williamsburg officers responded to a shots-fired call in the 400 block of Merrimac Trail.

Officers were then advised that the York-Poquoson deputy had accidentally discharged his firearm after initiating a traffic stop. Because the vehicle had crossed county lines, the Williamsburg Police Department will assist with the rest of the investigation. 

Around 6 p.m. Feb. 22, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Sam Jones sent a campus-wide message to students regarding the traffic stop.

The press releases from the involved police departments came 19 hours after the firearm was discharged. 

In his email, Jones said that he was writing to inform the campus about the incident.

It was this email that identified the vehicle’s occupants as students at the university’s law school. 

“It’s important that you receive the facts as provided to us and also know that the university is providing our students with all available support and resources during what has been a very traumatic time.” 

“I write to inform you about a traffic stop Thursday night involving two of our law students and deputies from a neighboring jurisdiction,” Jones said in the email. “It’s important that you receive the facts as provided to us and also know that the university is providing our students with all available support and resources during what has been a very traumatic time.” 

Jones also said that William and Mary Police Department officers had assisted in a discussion for law school students and faculty who were upset after learning about the incident.

College spokesperson said that at this time, he was not sure what specifically was discussed at Friday’s session. 

“I don’t have specific details about the discussion but we wanted to let the students know that the William & Mary community is here for them and to ensure they are aware of the resources available to them after what was a traumatic experience.”

“I don’t have specific details about the discussion but we wanted to let the students know that the William & Mary community is here for them and to ensure they are aware of the resources available to them after what was a traumatic experience,” Whitson said in an email.