One month ago, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told reporters that one of his deputies had to shoot a handcuffed man because the handcuffed man pulled the gun out of the deputy’s secured holster and threatened him with it.
That, of course, made Timothy Virden fear for his life, who in 2004, was named one of the “nation’s outstanding law enforcement officers.”
Being the valiant hero that he was, Virden managed to snatch the gun back from the suspect and shoot him twice.
The suspect, whose hands were cuffed behind him and his pants around his ankle, survived the shooting.
On Friday, Gualtieri spoke to reporters again.
This time announcing that deputy Timothy Virden was being charged with attempted manslaughter.
It turns out, the suspect, Dylan Tompkins-Holmes, never touched the deputy’s gun.
That, Gualtieri said, was determined by three thorough investigations that lasted a month which included evidence from a dash cam video and statements from another deputy that contradicted Virden’s claims.
The dash cam video only captures the audio because it is pointed outward towards the front of the car and the shooting took place as Virden was trying to place the suspect in the back of the car.
But Tompkins-Holmes was drunk and mouthing off to Virden, calling him a “pussy” and a “bitch.”
His pants had fallen and he apparently was halfway in the car, but wanted his pants pulled back up.
“You’re a real man, bro, you’re a real man,” Tompkins-Holmes said. “Keep going, keep going.”
Then two gunshots are heard and a man is heard yelling in pain.
A man, whose voice differs from the suspect, can be heard yelling “oh, shit.”
Then a few seconds later, a deputy, possibly Virden, is informing dispatch that he needs fire-rescue because “shots have been fired.”
Hours after the incident, Gualtieri held his press conference, defending Virden. And, of course, the media ate it all up.
This is how ABC Action News reported it:
A deputy shot a man Wednesday morning after he tried to grab the deputy’s gun, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
It started around 3:00 a.m. with a traffic stop near 129th Avenue West at Village Boulevard in John’s Pass Village.
During the traffic stop, deputy Timothy Virden suspected the female driver of DUI, and began to investigate.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said passenger Dylan Tompkins-Holmes, the driver’s boyfriend, interfered with the investigation. Gualtieri said the man was arguing with the deputy, and imploring the woman not to cooperate. At one point, he jumped into the driver’s seat.
Deputy Virden arrested Tompkins-Holmes, handcuffed him, and placed him in the back of the patrol vehicle, a Chevy Tahoe.
Inside the vehicle, the man’s pants fell down, and he fell to the floor. Tompkins-Holmes was loudly complaining and asked for help. Deputy Virden help him out of the SUV to pull up his pants, and Tompkins-Holmes — still handcuffed — grabbed for the deputy’s gun.
After a short struggle, Deputy Virden got control of the gun and shot Tompkins-Holmes twice. One shot hit the man in the wrist and thigh. Another shot struck him in the abdomen.
This is how the Tampa Bay Times is now reporting it:
A Pinellas sheriff’s deputy shot a 26-year-old man early Wednesday outside John’s Pass Village after the arrestee — with his hands cuffed behind his back — grabbed the deputy’s weapon, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Deputy Tom Virden was “concerned for his safety and his life,” when he shot Dylan Tompkins-Holmes, whose criminal record dates back to 2008.
“We’re extremely lucky and fortunate that Deputy Virden is fine — when someone grabs your gun and has your gun in their hand, it could be an absolutely volatile situation,” Gualtieri said.
The sheriff added: “Even if (people) are in handcuffs, there’s a lot of flexibility. You’re able to use your hands and fingers, and you’re able to grab.”
Now this is the way WTSP is reporting it:
“There is no evidence of any struggle,” said Sheriff Gualtieri, “There’s no evidence of anybody reaching for a gun.”
Deputy Verdin had claimed Tompkins-Holmes, whose hands were behind his back, whose pants had fallen down, and whose body was wedged against the backseat of Deputy Verdin’s cruiser, was somehow able to unholster and then grab the deputy’s weapon.
It’s a struggle that a second deputy who was standing just feet away, said never occurred.
“While handcuffed, being able to do this, this, and this,” Gualtieri demonstrated, “and then get the gun out? Didn’t happen.”
Gualtieri said three separate investigations all reach the same conclusion.
On Wednesday, Verdin was charged with attempted manslaughter, and was fired from his job at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
“I’m believe Tim Verdin is a good man, and a deputy that dedicated his professional life to law-enforcement,” said Sheriff Gualtieri, “And by all accounts, up to this point, had an excellent performance record.”
This is how Fox 13 is now reporting it:
On Friday, Gualtieri confirmed that Tomkins-Holmes never grabbed the deputy’s weapon.
The sheriff showed off a utility belt and gun holster to demonstrate how improbable that would have been to begin with: The 26-year-old was drunk, handcuffed, and did not have proprietary knowledge on how to release a gun out of the deputy’s twice-secured holster.What do you think?
The sheriff added that even if that part had been true, Virden would have been the only one with the gun when he shot the handcuffed man.
He played dashcam video of the shooting which countered the deputy’s account.
“There’s no evidence of a struggle, no evidence of anybody reaching for a gun,” Gualtieri offered after showing the footage. “This is all inconsistent with Deputy Virden’s version of events.”
A second deputy at the scene also refuted Virden’s claims that Tompkins-Holmes was a threat.
“All he had to do was walk away,” the sheriff continued. “There was no justification for shooting Tompkins-Holmes.”
Gualtieri maintained the sheriff’s office was correct in charging Tompkins-Holmes with “obstruction.” He also said he had no regrets for justifying the shooting the morning it took place, before the agency had completed an investigation.
“Dylan’s no angel, but he’s not a bad guy,” the sheriff said, adding that he’s never been charged with any violent crimes.
Meanwhile, Tompkin-Holmes is still recovering from his injuries, but Gualtieri said they not only dropped the obstructions charges against him and his girlfriend, they are going as far as paying for his medical bills because it’s the “right thing to do.”
But he made it clear that the department is not civilly liable for his deputy’s actions because of qualified immunity.
And in that, he is wrong. Dead wrong. In fact, he was an accomplice to the attempted manslaughter because he defended it within hours, only reversing judgement after three month-long investigations.
Let’s just hope they did not coerce Tompkins-Holmes into signing away his right to sue in exchange for them paying for his medical bills.
Below is the press conference from Friday where he announced Virden’s arrest. And below that is the dash cam video of the shooting. And below that is the video from last month where he is telling reporters that Tompkins-Holmes reached for Verdin’s gun.
Read the affidavit here.