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Why it took 20 minutes for police to respond to an armed man on a Richmond porch

Posted at 2:37 PM, Mar 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-08 18:11:25-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Investigators identified the man shot and killed by Richmond Police officers as 58-year-old Lester Carlton Epps, of Henrico.

Epps refused to lower his gun when officers ordered him to do so on Sunday night, according to a Richmond Police spokesperson.

Richmond Police officers Richard Redford and Shannon McGarva responded to a home along the 1200 block of Garber Street in Fulton after a 9-1-1 caller indicated Epps was standing on the front porch with a gun.

Richmond Garber St Shooting 3-6-22 2.jpg
Officers shot and killed a man during an incident on Garber Street on March 6, 2022.

"Officers commanded Epps to drop the firearm. Due to aggressive actions towards the officers by Epps, officers fired their weapons in response and struck him," the Richmond Police spokesperson wrote. "As with all officer-involved shooting incidents, the department is conducting a thorough investigation of the incident."

A search of online court documents indicated Epps has a criminal record that dates back more than 20 years.

Previous charges include drug possession, larceny, burglary, and traffic violations.

The investigation into Epps' shooting death is ongoing and questions remain about the initial police response to the scene.

Tracy Foard, who lives next to where the shooting occurred, said she was in bed when she heard the gunshots.

Foard said she and her husband called 9-1-1 because of how close they were, but they failed to reach an operator after 20 tries, she said.

Richmond Police shooting Fulton.png
Tracy Foard

“We called 9-1-1, they never picked up. Like 20 rings and nothing before we hung up. Then we saw the blue lights,” Foard said. “It made me a little bit concerned about safety within my own home. . . especially if you’re going to call and it’s going to take that long or not get through at all to 9-1-1. That’s what’s most concerning to me."

A Richmond Department of Emergency Communication (DEC) spokesperson said they are short-staffed when it comes to call center operators.

"Out of a total of 75 emergency communications officer positions allocated, we have 22 openings currently," Karen Gill, with the DEC, said. "As for the calls on March 6, 2022: We answered 147 calls during the period of 10 to 11 p.m., and 121 of those were answered in less than 10 seconds."

DEC officials noted they continue to answer 85 percent of 9-1-1 calls within the city in under 10 seconds. Anyone who experiences an issue with getting through to an operator is encouraged to contact DEC and file a complaint.

"We are currently hiring emergency communications officers," Gill continued. "Candidates are encouraged to learn more about the position and apply here."

Officers Redford and McGarva were not assigned to the area where the shooting occurred.

Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith said Monday that all on-duty officers in the 1st precinct were tied up with a double shooting in Mosby Court, so it took Redford and McGarva that long to reach Garber Street.

“The officers came from the 3rd precinct. It took them about 20 minutes to get there,” Smith said. “This individual stayed on the porch the entire time.”

Redford and McGarva were in separate parts of the city when they were called to respond to Garber Street.

Richmond Police faced staffing shortages of their own over the past year and more, but officials said those shortages did not impact the response on Sunday night.

The CBS 6 Problem Solvers asked if that played a role in the response to the incident at Garber Street, and Richmond Police officials said they are working to get that information.

Anyone with information was asked to call Major Crimes Detective M. Young 804-646-3926 or Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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