Lynchburg officers will not serve jail time for shooting an unarmed man in his home
Two Lynchburg police officers accused of shooting and injuring an unarmed man last year will not serve jail time.
Officers Edward Ferron, 41, and Savannah Simmons, 22, were charged after they fired into Walker Sigler's home in February of last year. Sigler, a father of three, was not armed. He was shot once and suffers from permanent injuries.
A grand-jury indicted Ferron and Simmons in June on felony counts of Reckless Handling of a Firearm Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury, Unlawful Wounding, and Unlawful Shooting at an Occupied Domicile.
The officers were set to begin trial Monday morning, but they entered into a plea agreement instead.
Ferron and Simmons pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless handling of a firearm. They were sentenced to 12 months in prison, with all 12 months suspended. They were also sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation and 100 hours of community service.
Judge Yeatts called the outcome a fair resolution for both sides and said the shooting was a, "terrible tragedy."
Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney, Bryan Porter, was appointed as special prosecutor of the case. In court Monday Porter walked the judge through the moments leading up to the shooting in the early hours of Feb. 17, 2018.
"Walker Sigler's life, and the life of his family, was forever changed when he was shot through the front door of his own home," said Porter. "In addition to suffering grievous physical injury, the feeling of safety and security that all of us should feel with in one's own home was forever shattered."
Porter told the court room that Ferron and another officer were on their patrol shift and stopped at the Sigler's home after they noticed the front door was left open for an extended period of time. They thought it could have been a burglary in progress.
Ferron, who was training a new officer, ordered a tactical entry of the home. He did not observe any signs of forced entry or distress.
Three more officers, including Simmons, drove to the house for back-up. The five officers announced themselves, four standing at the front door, with their guns drawn.
"The court of appeals has specifically addressed that issue and said that, 'an open door of a residence at night is an insufficient basis in which to make an emergency entry into a home," said Porter. "And the reason for that is exactly what occurred in this case."
Porter said Sigler, who fell asleep on the couch while watching a movie, approached the door in a groggy state when he heard the officers yell into his home. When he got to the door, he slammed it shut after seeing several people with guns.
Ferron told investigators that heard the abrupt sound of the door shutting, and possibly the sound of the mailbox clinging, and fired two rounds towards the house in self defense.
Simmons followed with two more, one of which hit Sigler.
"These officers did not call Mr. Sigler’s home, they did not turn on their blue lights, they did not use the public address system of their vehicles, they simply made the decision to enter the home, guns drawn," said Sigler's attorney, John Lichtenstein.
Lichtenstein said the shooting has forever changed the Sigler family.
The bullet shattered Sigler's leg and blood loss caused permanent partial loss of vision. Lichtenstein would not comment when asked if they will file a civil suit, but said the family is doing all they can to move forward.
Sigler's wife was eight months pregnant at the time of the shooting. She and her two young sons were sleeping upstairs when her husband was shot.
"He has and continues to suffer excruciating pain and will require treatment throughout his life for these devastating injuries," said Lichtenstein, "It's been very difficult for them to come to grips with and understand how this could happen."
Attorneys for Ferron and Simmons both maintain that the officers were acting in self defense.
"When he fired his weapon on that night, he felt he had to. That either his life or his fellow officer's lives were in danger," said Chuck Felmlee, Ferron's attorney.
Felmlee and Rebecca Wetzel, Simmons' attorney, said they were shocked when the officers were indicted on criminal charges. They said that one of the reasons their clients ultimately entered the plea agreement was to avoid the risk associated with trial.
"We believe this was a fair resolution to what has been three very unreasonable charges," said Felmlee.
It is not clear if the officers will continue to have careers in law enforcement.
"Now that the criminal portion of this incident has concluded, the Lynchburg Police Department will finish our internal administrative investigation into the matter," LPD stated in a news release.
Both officers have been placed on administrative leave without pay while the internal investigation is conducted, the release added.
Porter said this was a just outcome and he will be releasing some of the body-worn camera from the shooting in the next two weeks.
"There was never any indication that the officers intentionally did anything," said Porter. "They obviously didn't go out looking to shoot somebody that night. I believe they are in good faith accepting some responsibility in this case."