From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: Charge dismissed in death of teen:
A judge dismissed a voluntary manslaughter charge yesterday against a game warden who shot and killed a Greene County teenager during a traffic stop in January.
Robert Orrin Ham III, the first Virginia game warden charged in a line-of-duty shooting, had pleaded not guilty in August. Game wardens are sworn law-enforcement officers authorized to make arrests.
Authorities said Ham and a deputy sheriff, responding to a report that Allen Michael Cochran had abducted his girlfriend, stopped Cochran’s car on U.S. 33 on Jan. 24. When Ham tried to remove the girl, the 16-year-old driver accelerated the car and struck Ham, who then fired into the vehicle, authorities said at the time.
Cochran’s family later disputed the claim that he had abducted his 15-year-old girlfriend, saying the two were running away together and that the shooting was unwarranted. Ham was placed on administrative duties after he was indicted by a grand jury.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Ronald L. Morris and defense attorney Steven Benjamin said in court yesterday that if the case had gone to trial, it would not have resulted in a conviction.
Uh, why did you get an indictment against him then? Idiot…
“There was no crime. This was a necessary, justifiable shooting,” Benjamin said after court.
Col. Mike Bise, chief of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ Law Enforcement Division, said an internal investigation also found that Ham acted appropriately.
“It was an unfortunate and tragic event, but we have been confident the court would reach this decision,” Bise said.
Some more information from a prior post:
Cochran’s psychiatric history will likely take center stage as the case moves forward. Ham’s lawyers are requesting Cochran’s medical records in hopes of gaining further insight into the teen’s thinking the night of the shooting.
Court filings indicate the defense is looking for evidence that Cochran was suicidal, perhaps homicidal, when he and Ham crossed paths Jan. 24.
“It is our understanding and belief that Mr. Cochran was . . . very disturbed,” defense attorney Steven D. Benjamin said.
Two weeks before the shooting, Benjamin said, Cochran underwent a psychiatric evaluation after threatening to kill former classmates at William Monroe High School and members of his girlfriend’s family.
The night of the shooting, Ham, whose duties include law enforcement, was assisting sheriff’s deputies who were looking for Cochran in connection with the disappearance of his girlfriend, Chelsea Walker.
Authorities spotted a 1995 Chrysler with Walker in the passenger seat near the entrance to the Woodridge subdivision.
According to the defense, Ham approached the car but Cochran drove forward and struck the 24-year-old game warden, throwing him onto the hood and continuing through the intersection.
Benjamin said his client fired at Cochran only after unsuccessfully warning the teen to stop the car.