FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) – A sheriff's deputy fatally shot a hospital patient who was wielding a metal sign post and appeared to be mentally disturbed, police said Tuesday.
The 29-year-old Hispanic man had just been discharged from Inova Fairfax Hospital Monday night when he began wielding a sign post with a sharp metal end, Police Chief Edwin Roessler said at a news conference. A hospital security guard was struck by the post before a sheriff's deputy who was guarding another hospital patient responded, Roessler said.
The deputy tried to talk the man down, but he continued to charge at the deputy, prompting him to fire multiple shots, Roessler said.
After shooting the man, the deputy began rendering first aid, as did police officers who responded shortly thereafter. Then, fire and rescue personnel arrived and transported him the short distance back to the hospital emergency room, Roessler said. Initially, police said the man's injuries were not life-threatening, but county police spokesman Don Gotthardt said the man died early Tuesday.
Roessler didn't identify either the patient or the deputy, who is now on administrative leave.
Sheriff Stacey Kincaid said the deputy is an 18-year veteran, but she declined to identify the deputy's name or race.
Roessler said the deputy had received crisis intervention training, and tried to de-escalate the situation. As the man charged toward him, the deputy tried to tactically retreat and walk back before eventually firing the weapon.
"Unfortunately the adult male kept on coming at him with the sign post in a cocked position ready to strike," Roessler said.
Roessler said it was "absolutely appropriate" for the deputy to respond to the situation, given his ability to get there quickly because he was already at the hospital. Roessler and Kincaid said sheriff's deputies have full law-enforcement authority in Virginia, even though their primary duties in Fairfax County involve security at the county jail and courthouse.
The encounter between the deputy and the man was captured on hospital surveillance video, Roessler said, but will not be released until an investigation is finished.
Hospital spokeswoman Tracy Connell said she could not comment because it involved a patient protected by federal privacy rules.
It's not clear whether the man was hospitalized for mental health treatment, but Roessler said the man's behavior made it clear that "in some way, shape or form he was suffering from some kind of mental episode."
The county police department's major crimes division assumed responsibility for the criminal investigation and the sheriff's office will conduct an internal investigation, police said in a news release.
The hospital security guard who was struck by the sign post was treated at the hospital and released, Roessler said.