CHESAPEAKE, Va. -- A Virginia state trooper has been cleared in the fatal shooting death of a man who led police on a chase, rammed a police vehicle with his own and attacked the trooper with a metal pole, according to findings by a local prosecutor.
The shooting occurred on Nov. 6 and involved a man from the southeastern Virginia city of Chesapeake who had a documented history of mental illness, drug use and violence. Brian Price, 45, was under the supervision of mental health professionals after being released from a psychiatric ward the previous year.
“The death of Brian Price was a justifiable exercise of self-defense by Trooper Paul Perry in the performance of his duties,” Chesapeake Commonwealth’s Attorney Matthew R. Hamel wrote of his findings in a letter to Virginia State Police on Wednesday.
The incident began with a report that Price assaulted a convenience store cashier in Newport News and appeared intoxicated, Hamel's letter stated.
Price fled in his car with Amity Grey, whose family later said was in a relationship with Price and that the two had plans to get married.
During the police chase that followed, Price appeared to keep Grey in the car against her will, Hamel wrote. She opened her door and appeared to try to get out at one point.
The pursuit was “terminated and re-engaged” because of traffic safety concerns, Hamel wrote. At one point, a police officer pulled alongside the vehicle and Grey communicated to him about children being kidnapped. A car chase ensued and Perry, the state trooper, later tried to block Price's Chevy Cobalt, but Price rammed Perry's vehicle several times.
Price then apparently lost control of the car, which tumbled off an embankment. Grey was killed.
Perry chased Price on foot. The trooper was not wearing a body camera, but he later told authorities that Price had struck him in the chest with an object that caused him to fall backward.
“As he looked up, (Perry) saw Price standing above him, raising a ‘pipe-like object,’” Hamel wrote. “Fearing that he was about to be struck again or disabled or worse, he fired the rifle from his hip three times.”
A metal pole that was consistent with a shower rod was found near Price's body, Hamel wrote. A police dashboard camera captured the initial part of the foot chase as well as Perry identifying himself as “state” police and commanding Price to “drop the weapon."
A toxicology report found THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, as well as amphetamine in Price's system.
Perry's race has not been released. Price was white.
In 2017, Price was judged not guilty by reason of insanity after striking his mother with a baseball bat, court records stated. He was released from a mental hospital in 2020 under the supervision of a community services board.
Hamel noted that Price's release was revoked at one point because of his illegal use of amphetamines. He was released again. And the community services board reported that Price continued to use the drug as recently as two months before his death.
But the community services board also said that Price was showing signs of improvement. He was working in construction, living in an apartment and keeping his appointments with his case manager and others overseeing his care.
Price’s diagnosis included schizoaffective disorder, which is characterized primarily by schizophrenia symptoms that include hallucinations or delusions.
Price was among a small group of people who are not held not responsible for crimes because of mental illness.
“The majority of people do well,” Michael J. Vitacco, a psychiatry professor at Augusta University in Georgia, told The Associated Press last year. “The combination of mandated treatment and follow-up is very much protective for the community.”