Police officers went to great lengths to try to serve an emergency custody order on a Virginia man, after he threatened his father with a knife and to harm himself, Fairfax County police Chief Kevin Davis said.
Despite repeated attempts to de-escalate the situation, an officer fired a single shot, knocking Robert Jablonski, 50, of Chantilly, to the ground. It happened after he came out of the home and aimed a compound bow — a weapon with sufficient force to penetrate an officer’s bulletproof vest.
Jablonski survived, and he has been charged with attempted aggravated murder of a police officer.
Davis displayed officers’ body camera video of the Jan. 4, 2022 incident at a Wednesday morning news conference, shortly after Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano issued a news release saying the officer would not face any criminal charges.
“The officer in question was reasonable in fearing that Mr. Jablonski intended to either kill or cause serious bodily injury to him or the two other officers, and it was therefore legally permissible for him to use the level of force he employed,” Descano said.
Davis presented a summary of what happened, including why the officers were inside the home at the request of Jablonski’s parents, who had obtained an emergency custody order earlier that day.
“The footage tends to speak for itself, and that’s a good thing,” Davis said.
Davis said the officers showed great restraint and compassion trying to convince Jablonski to come upstairs from the basement, where he shouted threats to officers and family members.
In the video, Jablonski warned that the “First one down here dies.” An officer can be heard saying, “Well, we’re not going to come down, Robert” and “We’re gonna give you that respect for your space.”
Despite efforts to persuade Jablonski to peacefully come into custody, to talk with mental health experts at Merrifield Center, Jablonski’s threats continued.
A female officer to fellow officers can be heard saying, “Did you hear that?” and “He’s gonna kill mom before she wakes up tomorrow.”
With the threats and tension intensifying inside the family home, Davis said the officers left the house and set up a perimeter to try to reset the dialogue with Jablonski.
“That’s giving police officers time and distance, so they continue to negotiate with a person in crisis,” Davis said.
But even with the repeated attempts to de-escalate the situation and countywide diversion programs aimed at providing assistance to residents with mental health issues, “sometimes a police involved shooting will still happen,” Davis said.
Davis said the department averages less than one police-involved shooting per year. “So, when it happens, it’s a big deal, and we should all pause and ask questions.”
Officers on the scene had been trained in crisis intervention.
“Where he was aiming the bow was directly at uniformed Fairfax County police officers,” Davis said. “It was dangerous situation that unfolded very quickly when he stepped out of the house.”
Jablonski remains in custody pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for Feb. 16.
Editor’s note: Clarifies weapon pointed at officers was compound bow.