‘Armed and dangerous.’ Hear the call that led to a shooting that killed one, paralyzed deputy
After he was shot and mostly paralyzed by a police officer during a Sept. 11 confrontation that killed a fugitive, a Scott County sheriff’s deputy told Kentucky State Police investigators he had concerns about the training of his fellow officers.
“I was more afraid of getting shot by one of the guys that was inexperienced than getting shot by actual bad guys,” said Scott County Deputy Jaime Morales. Morales was wounded while police were trying to capture fugitive Edward R. Reynolds, who was killed at a rest area off of Interstate 75.
“Some of the guys did not have tactical experience to be, you know, on the situation. You know, as high stress as something like that is,” Morales told investigators.
Morales’ statements were included in hundreds of pages of interviews, investigative findings and forensic reports included in the Kentucky State Police case file of the Sept. 11 incident. The Lexington Herald-Leader obtained the case file through an Open Records Act request.
Lawyers for Morales said more could have been done to prevent Morales’ shooting.
“I think it’s pretty clear that errors were made,” said Elliott Miller. Elliott and Tom Miller are representing Morales. “We certainly believe the outcome was avoidable.”
State police forensic experts would not say which officer shot Morales, the case file shows. Two officers who fired their weapons that night deny shooting Morales.
But investigating officers’ notes show KSP questioned those results.
The Scott County Sheriff’s Office has not yet been provided with a full copy of the state police report, but public information officer Sgt. Eddie Hart said Wednesday that the office wants the information to be available to the public, for transparency and out of respect for Morales.
“Our goal from here on is to support Jaime and whatever he needs,” Hart said.
Once the sheriff’s office has received and reviewed the full investigation report, it will look into what changes and training need to be put in place, Hart said.
“Anytime a deputy is injured we owe it to all officers to investigate if changes need to be made and be constantly evolving on what response is best for certain situations,” Hart said.
While the sheriff’s office will review the case to learn if mistakes were made on its end, Hart said that if Reynolds had complied the shooting would not have occurred.
“We know the suspect took the biggest role in the actions that took place that night ... his actions led to reactions and, in this case, a bullet from a law enforcement officer struck a deputy,” Hart said.
The Millers said Morales should be compensated for the shooting that left him partially paralyzed. But that effort has been stymied because Morales’ attorneys have not yet been provided the Kentucky State Police case file of the investigation, they said.
“We have filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office,” Tom Miller said of the repeated delays in releasing the case file. Attorney General Andy Beshear rules on open records cases. State police said the case file was mailed to those who requested it.
Morales was one of seven officers who were part of a special-response team, or SRT team, consisting of Georgetown and Scott County sheriff’s department personnel. They were sent to the Scott County rest area in response to a call from a deputy U.S. marshal. Florida colleagues had told the deputy marshal that Reynolds was spotted in the area. The SRT team met the deputy marshal at the rest stop off of Interstate 75. The deputy marshal had spotted a silver Ford Mustang that Reynolds was reported to be driving.
According to the investigative file, the SRT team truck pulled in behind the Mustang. The team left the truck, surrounded the Mustang and called to the driver. The officers who surrounded the vehicle gave verbal commands, such as “show your hands!”
Officers told KSP investigators that Reynolds refused to comply with commands, grabbed his keys and started the Mustang. Some of the officers saw the Mustang’s brake lights and reverse lights come on.
Morales tried to open the driver’s side door, but it was locked. At that point, Morales and Scott County Deputy Jordan Jacobs tried to break the driver’s side door window with their batons while Scott County Sgt. Jeremy Nettles attempted to break the passenger side door window with his baton. Morales eventually succeeded in breaking the driver’s side window, at which point he saw Reynolds retrieve a handgun from between the front seats or the console area.
Morales reported he saw Reynolds load the gun and move the slide as if chambering a round.
Once he saw the handgun, Morales immediately said “gun!” to warn the other officers, according to the case file.
Deputy Jacobs, Georgetown officer Joseph Enricco and Morales fired their patrol rifles in Reynolds’ direction, according to information presented to a Scott County grand jury.
Reynolds never fired his weapon, police officers at the scene and ballistic tests of Reynolds’ Beretta handgun later showed. Autopsy and other reports show Reynolds was shot multiple times.
According to information in the files, Reynolds’ autopsy report showed dozens of gunshot wounds “attributed to nine projectiles.”
Reynolds could not have shot Morales in the back if Reynolds never fired his weapon.
Yet, Scott County Sheriff Tony Hampton waited until March, after a grand jury did not pursue charges in Reynolds death, before announcing Morales was shot by law enforcement.
Jacobs, Enricco and Morales were the only officers who fired, according to ballistic reports. According to a diagram presented to the Scott County grand jury this spring, all three were on the driver’s side of the Mustang.
In the investigation report, three possible scenarios of how Morales could have been shot were presented. Morales could have stepped right and diagonally to check on Reynolds before being shot. It is also possible that the officer who shot Morales was moving as he fired his last shot, striking Morales in the back. The third possibility presented was that both Morales and the officer firing were moving at the time Morales was shot.
According to forensic reports, at least two bullet fragments found in Reynolds’ body came from Hornady ammunition, which is issued to Scott County sheriff’s deputies. Three bullet fragments were Federal tactical, which is used by the Georgetown Police Department.
The report said ballistic experts couldn’t identify which officer fired each round found in Reynolds’ body.
KSP forensics experts also would not say which officer shot Morales. Yet, there were clues, KSP investigators noted.
Test fires showed that Federal Tactical bullets mushroomed. Hornady bullets fragmented into several pieces.
“I explained that Officer Enricco’ s rifle was loaded with Federal tactical ammunition and that Deputy Jacobs’ and Morales’ rifles were loaded with Hornady ammunition,” according to the report written by KSP Lt. Claude Little. “I commented that the Federal projectile looked just like the projectile visible in Deputy Morales’ x-ray.”
Yet, KSP forensic experts said they could not make that determination without having the bullet that hit Morales.
Elliott Miller said the bullet could not be retrieved. It is still lodged in Morales’ spine.
KSP investigators asked Morales why he was concerned about the officers he served with.
“Some of the guys did not have the tactical experience to be, you know on the situation,” Morales said. “Also the training was very, like I said we would show up and somebody would say, ‘Oh we need to do this like this’ and somebody else would say ‘no we need to do this like that.’ So it was very confusing and changing constantly,” Morales said of SRT training. “And confusing is the most accurate word I can use.”