The county police officer who shot a 21-year-old Crozet man to death in a confrontation June 8 won’t be charged with a crime, Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford announced today.
Nearly 11 weeks after the incident, Lunsford released a six-page statement with a legal analysis of the investigation into the shooting that stated Albemarle County police officer James Larkin was justified in his use of deadly force against Gregory A. Rosson, Jr., whom he shot six times at close range after Rosson charged him.
According to Lunsford’s summary of the investigation, Larkin was on patrol in the early hours of the morning of June 8 when a call came through dispatch reporting a victim being actively choked outside a trailer off Rt. 250 in Afton. The caller was Rosson’s mother, who told police she had been on the phone with Rosson and his girlfriend as Rosson was attacking the woman, and heard her son say he was choking her and that his mother would be “next.”
Larkin was first on the scene, and arrived alone, according to the investigation summary. On his way there, a dispatcher had given him more information: Rosson had had run-ins with police in the past, had been known to have a rifle in his possession during previous confrontations, and had the previous year become hostile during an incident with an officer.
The summary from Lunsford describes what happened next in detail: Larkin pulled up to the trailer and saw a person on the ground being dragged, toes up, behind an SUV. He exited his car, gun drawn, and saw Rosson with his girlfriend in a chokehold. Larkin identified himself as an officer and told Rosson to stop, but Rosson ignored him and began punching the woman in the head. He then charged at Larkin, who shot him five times in the chest and once in the neck, “aiming high because he was aware that the woman was lying on the ground behind Rosson and he wanted to avoid hitting her.” Rosson died at the scene of blood loss, having been shot in the heart, lungs, and esophagus, according to an autopsy. His blood alcohol content was between .17 and .18 at the time, the summary says—more than twice the legal limit.
According to the summary, the girlfriend, who was treated for lacerations, bleeding, and “significant” bruising to her head and neck, told investigators that Larkin “saved [her] life and his that night.”
Virginia State Police investigated the incident, and according to Lunsford’s statement, found that the number of cartridges left in Larkin’s possession after the shooting supported his statement that he fired on Rosson until he fell, reloaded, and then did not fire again.
“It is important to note that Larkin was entitled to act in self-defense if he reasonably feared death or serious bodily injury at the hands of Rosson based on the circumstances as they appeared to him to exist at the time,” Lunsford’s summary reads. “Based on the nature of the call…the scene as viewed by Larkin, the distance of the next responding officer, and the actions of Rosson himself, I find that circumstances existed which would have resulted in a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.”
As a result, Lunsford wrote, her office will not bring charges against Larkin.
The June 8 shooting was the third police-involved shooting in the area within three months.
On Sunday, May 26, Albemarle County police officer William Underwood shot 38-year-old Josue Salinas Valdez at Valdez’s city townhome while investigating a hit-and-run. On March 16, Charlottesville officer Alexander Bruner shot Franklin Donnett Brown, 56, of Albemarle, while responding to a fight outside the Elks Lodge near the city’s Downtown Mall. Brown allegedly shot another man, 22-year-old Leon Travis Brock, of Culpeper County, immediately before he was shot by Bruner. Internal investigations cleared police of wrongdoing in both those cases.