No charges against Fairfax Co. officer who shot man in van

The commonwealth’s attorney for Fairfax County, Virginia, isn’t going to file charges against the police officer who shot a man in a van in Lorton last month.

Michael Vaughan, 34, was shot Feb. 15 in a van on Fitt Court while he was holding a rifle. Police had been called there because the van wasn’t known by the neighbors and had been parked there for more than 24 hours.

Hours after Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano’s statement, Police Chief Kevin Davis held a news conference in which he provided more details and showed body-camera footage of the incident.

When the police arrived at Fitt Court, opened the back door and announced themselves, Davis said, no one answered.

The officers found out that the South Carolina plates on the van had been reported stolen and called for a tow. Meanwhile, the officers found the van was registered in Virginia. Davis said the van was “connected to Michael Vaughan through a relative in Fairfax County,” but that neither Vaughan nor the van had any connection to the neighborhood.

Almost 45 minutes after police arrived to the scene, Vaughan opened the sliding rear door on the driver’s side, tossed out a blanket he’d been under and attempted to leave the van holding a rifle.

Officer Trevor Jones was on the phone with the relative when the sliding door opened. He told Vaughan to drop his gun, but didn’t. After he continued to hang onto the rifle, Jones fired multiple rounds toward the van, ultimately striking him. The rifle Vaughan held fell underneath the van as officers walked toward him.

As officers attempted to provide to aid Vaughan, they found a second weapon — a handgun — inside his pocket.

“Please let me die,” Vaughan said repeatedly as the officers performed first aid. He added, “You don’t know the story. … Let me bleed out. … Tell my parents I love them.”

Vaughan was stuck twice in the upper body, including the neck. He was taken to the hospital and treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

Vaughan had been charged with failure to appear and a probation violation related to an incident last year, in which he allegedly sold methamphetamine to an undercover Fairfax County police officer. He’s since been charged with two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer, possession of a Schedule I/II drug, possession of drug paraphernalia, two counts of credit card theft and petit larceny. He’s still in custody.

Descano said his office reviewed interviews, radio communications, body camera footage and more. “Based on these facts, Officer Jones had a reasonable fear of serious injury or death for himself and others involved.”

He concluded: “I find no violations of criminal law on the part of Officer Jones and decline to bring any criminal charges against him.”

The police said Vaughan had been living in the van for quite some time. “It seemed like all his worldly possessions were with him in the van,” Davis said, adding that there were “many, many rounds [of ammunition] available to Michael Vaughan if he wanted to engage in a shootout with police.”

Davis said the incident, particularly the difficulty in figuring out whether there was someone inside the van, would likely be part of police training for years. “The moment you think you’re dealing with a vehicle that’s unoccupied,” he said, “it may not be unoccupied.”

The chief said he looked in the van himself — a rare close-up look at a crime scene, he said — and said the interior was “covered from floor to ceiling with junk.” If Vaughan had come out firing, Davis said, the officers and tow truck driver “never would have seen it coming.”

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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