Prince William Co. prosecutor says fatal police shooting of 15-year-old was justified

WASHINGTON — Authorities in Prince William County say the Sept. 15 fatal shooting by police of a 15-year-old boy who claimed to have a bomb strapped to his chest and brandished a crowbar at officers was justified.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert announced his findings at a Tuesday morning news conference.

In a written summary of the events leading up to the shooting provided by police Tuesday afternoon, authorities identified the teen as Ruben Urbina.

The teen, described by Ebert as “mentally distraught,” called 911 to report he had a bomb strapped to his chest and was holding his mother hostage inside the family home in the 6800 block of Hartzell Hill Lane in Haymarket.

When police arrived on the scene about 10:45 a.m., officers witnessed the teen striking his brother’s 18-year-old girlfriend with a 3-foot-long crowbar in front of the home’s garage, Ebert said. The teen advanced on officers with the crowbar raised over his head, refused to follow officer’s commands to drop the crowbar and was less than 10 feet away from officers when he was shot twice in the upper body, Ebert said.

Ebert said police “followed police protocol in that regard. They told him what he was supposed to do and refused to obey them.”

Ebert added: “He’s got a jacket on. He tells police that he has explosives strapped to his body. Trying to use some kind of force under those circumstances other than lethal force wouldn’t be called for.”

The officer who fired the shots was identified as Robert Choyce, 35, a seven-year veteran of the force who was currently assigned to the department’s tactical training and response unit. He was one of four officers who responded to the home after the 911 call.

Police said they did not find any explosives on the teen or in the home but did find a knife in his jacket pocket.

The 18-year-old woman who was struck by the crowbar suffered serious injuries to her head and her back and was transported to a hospital where her injuries were treated, police said.

Earlier that morning, the teen began acting aggressively toward his mother and said he wanted to tie her up with a telephone cord, according the police summary. But police said the teen did not actually hold his mother hostage. In fact, other members of the family were initially unaware that the teen had called police.

In that 911 call, the teen told police he had blades and other weapons, that he was possibly going to retrieve a gun and that he did not want to live anymore before he became agitated and hung up the phone, police said.

Officer arrived at the home shortly before 11 a.m., police said. Choyce fatally shot the teen at 11:05 a.m.

Prince William County Police Chief Barry Barnard called the shooting a tragedy for the family.

“Our findings at this time in the police department is that the use of force in this occasion was within our guidelines, within our policies,” he said at the Tuesday morning news conference.

The police department’s Office of Professional Standards is continuing with an independent administrative investigation to determine if officers followed department policy and the incident will also be reviewed by the department’s Use of Deadly Force Review Board.

Barnard said the shooting was not captured on body camera footage, because the department has only begun rolling out body-worn cameras this month and none of the officers involved were equipped with them.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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