Family attorney disputes Chesterfield Police’s account of fatal shooting of hatchet-wielding man

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The attorney representing the family of a man who was shot and killed by Chesterfield County Police officers in 2023 says what he saw in a video of the incident does not match what the department said happened.

In a statement released on Tuesday, April 2, the department said that Charles Byers was wielding a hatchet and approaching officers while ignoring their commands to put it down when they shot and killed him on July 8, 2023.

Byers, who had schizoaffective disorder and was said to be in a mental health crisis when he was fatally shot by officers, had recently been taken from HCA Chippenham Hospital to the Richmond City Justice Center and then was released, despite having been detained under a temporary detention order.

“This is, without question, a tragic series of events that we now know began with a person in crisis, who was taken into custody under a temporary detention order, and ended with a neighbor’s call to 911 and officers faced with an unrelenting and threatening breaking and entering suspect armed with a hatchet,” said police in the statement.

Pail Curley, the attorney representing Byers’ family as they sue HCA and Richmond Police, told 8News that he saw video of what led up to the fatal shooting that doesn’t align with what police said in the statement.

“Charles Byers was backing away from the police officers,” said Curley about what he saw in the video. “He never threatened the police officers. He never held the hatchet up, never wielded the hatchet.”

Chesterfield Police did not say in the statement whether Byers was backing away from the officers when they got at him, but the statement said that, as police fired at Byers, he turned and ran before dropping the hatchet and falling to the ground.

Dana Schrad, the executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said that the officers followed the correct protocol in this situation.

“When it becomes a situation like this, where someone is carrying a lethal weapon and approaching you, it makes no difference at that point in time whether you’re mentally ill or not,” said Schrad. “You have that first duty to protect.”

Schrad said that the larger issue is how Byers was able to be released from HCA Chippenham Hospital during a mental health crisis in the first place.

“We need much more concentrated locally available services right now,” she said. “We have very few places to take people in mental health crisis. It’s a lack of services.”

This is a developing story, stay with 8News for updates.

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