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Henrico judge considers striking manslaughter case against officer accused of killing man on I-64

Posted at 5:59 PM, Jan 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-24 20:36:03-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Judge Joseph Ellis will decide on Wednesday morning whether Henrico's Commonwealth's Attorney has presented enough evidence that a jury should decide whether Officer Timothy Million III committed voluntary manslaughter when he allegedly shot and killed a man on Interstate 64.

The incident happened on November 6, 2021, and resulted in Tony Singleton's death.

Million was charged with voluntary manslaughter after a special Grand Jury determined enough evidence existed to indict him. His trial began Monday.

Defense Attorney Edward Nickel introduced a motion to strike the Commonwealth's case late Tuesday after the Commonwealth rested its case.

Nickel argued the prosecutors had not established the shooting was the result of a "sudden heat of passion" or "during mutual combat," which he argued are necessary for a voluntary manslaughter charge. He said Singleton was intoxicated, failed to obey Million's commands and moved his hands toward his waistband where he had a knife during a tussle with Million prior to the shooting.

"This is a situation where Officer Million was protecting himself from deadly force," Nickle said. "There is no evidence that shows anything he did was wrong with regard to his training."

However, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Huberman said the "heat of passion" stipulation involved in a voluntary manslaughter charge can also be caused by "fear". He said this is an example of an "imperfect self-defense" where somebody believes they are acting in self-defense but the "amount of force used was not reasonable."

Huberman told the judge that none of the people who witnessed the event saw Singleton reach for his knife prior to Officer Million shooting him and argued that the "video doesn't show what they claim it shows, and it's for the fact-finders to decide."

In this case, the fact-finders are the jury.

Judge Ellis said he would "study the matter tonight and give an answer in the morning."

Prior to the defense's request, the Commonwealth called several witnesses to testify and showed the body-worn camera footage from three different officers' cameras, including Officer Million. The video showed Million yelling commands to Singleton like "turn off the car," "put your hands out the window," and "driver, stop reaching around."

The video then shows Singleton getting out of the car and Million yelling to him to stay in the car and put his hands up. It then appeared to show Million running up to Singleton and going "hands-on" with him.

Witness Luna Rodriguez, who was doing a ride along with Officer Million that night, called the interaction a "tussle,"

Seconds after that, Million fires his gun multiple times at Singleton. The "tussle" and shooting happen incredibly fast.

Even when Commonwealth's Attorney Shannon Taylor showed a slowed-down version of the incident, as well as images of individual frames from the video, the video and images were still not fully clear.

While Singleton was handcuffed and given medical attention, one of the videos shows a paramedic tossing a knife found in Singleton's waistband to the side.

The juror was shown the knife, which Henrico Forensic Detective Kenneth Hill explained was a double-bladed knife with one blade measuring seven inches, and the other blade measuring five and a quarter inches.

In one of the videos, Officer Million said "why would he reach," to another officer.

The Assistant Chief Medical Examiner, Jeffrey Gofton, testified that Singleton had an elevated level of alcohol in his system, as well as the drug Valium. He also said Singleton was shot seven times and two of those shots, one to the left leg and the other to the right chest, were what killed him.

Detective Hill also testified that a "machete" was found in Singleton's car "near the rear passenger floorboard," but said, "it was not used in the event."

He also said a "smoking device used to ingest narcotics" was found in the car, as well as a "Mad Dog," which is an alcoholic beverage.

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