Investigators: Officer justified in pulling trigger

The Prince William Police Department and the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney have determined that Prince William police Officer Astrid Robinson was justified in shooting Dominick Thomas, after he attacked and beat another officer Saturday, said Prince William Police Chief Charlie T. Deane.

“Based on the results of the internal investigation, the shooting was clearly justified and in compliance with police department general orders,” Deane announced in a joint press conference Thursday with Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert.

“The officer did use everything that she had in her power to use,” Ebert said. “the pepper spray to no effect and the baton to no effect. I think that she used a lot of restraint not using deadly force sooner,” Ebert said of Robinson’s measured response.

The shooting ended the attack that started at about 1:30 p.m., when Robinson saw Thomas, 32, of Woodbridge beating a woman in a car in front of the police station on Donald Curtis Drive in Woodbridge.

“She observed a male in the driver’s seat who was attacking a female who appeared to be attempting to get out of the vehicle,” Deane said in the police station lobby.

The woman succeeded in getting out of the car but then fell to the parking lot, Deane said.

Robinson told the woman to go inside and she did, Deane said.

When the woman entered the building, Deane said, the desk officer Mark Harman, a 17-year department veteran, came from behind the desk to help her.

“He observed that the woman’s face had been bloodied as did the officer outside,” Deane said of Harman and Robinson.

Thomas, against orders from Robinson, chased the woman into the station.

Harman sent the woman to a secure part of the station just before Thomas, who is 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs 190 pounds, attacked.

“At that point the suspect … got out of the vehicle and attempted to follow her and the officer told him not to come into this building,” Deane said.

“There was a confrontation in which the suspect attacked the male officer,” Deane said.

“In this confrontation, inside of this station, the female officer utilized the pepper spray and also used a side handle, or an Asp, which is an expandable baton, to no effect on this individual,” Deane said.

Thomas got away and ran outside where his car remained parked, but idling. Robinson ran to the car and removed the keys while Harman tried to detain Thomas, Deane said.

Robinson noticed that Harman was in trouble after she secured Thomas’ car.

“The male officer was being held against the side of the building and was being struck in the face,” Deane said.

“He was leaning over. He was not responsive and he was not defending himself in any way,” Deane said.

Robinson ordered Thomas to stop.

“He ignored her,” Deane said.

“She fired one round, and that ceased the attack on the officer at that point,” he said.

Robinson shot Thomas in the side of the torso. The bullet went through, came out the other side and struck Thomas in the elbow, Deane said.

“It’s very difficult for an officer to make a decision to use deadly force in a situation where the other party does not have a deadly weapon,” Deane said.

“I think she prevented this officer from being more severely injured or killed,” Deane said.

Thomas was flown to an area hospital, treated and released to the Prince William County Adult Detention Center, Ebert said.

“The individual who was wounded is now charged with malicious aggravated wounding and being held at no bond, and I intend to present other charges as a result of this incident to the grand jury,” Ebert said.

The violence of the beating was illustrated in Harman’s reaction afterwards, Ebert said.

“Once he heard that someone had been shot, when he regained consciousness, he thought he had been shot,” Ebert said of Harman.

“I think that just tells of the severity of the beating,” Ebert said.

Thomas was paroled from a New York state prison in 1995 after serving four and a half years of a six-year sentence, Deane said.

Harman, who was also flown to an area hospital, underwent facial surgery and was released from the hospital after four days, police said.

Robinson is on paid administrative leave, Deane said.

“She’s going to be off a couple of weeks. We ask officers to take some time off following any kind of incident that involves the use of deadly force,”

“She’s doing well, but it’s a traumatic type incident to any officer. We’re trained to save people’s lives and not inflict harm, but this is a necessary part of the job,” Deane said.

Robinson has been with the Prince William police department for 18 months and served for three and a half years as a Virginia State Trooper.