CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Charleston police officer was shot and killed in a friendly fire incident early Sunday after pursuing a dangerous suspect who police say was ramming police cars when officers opened fire.
Patrolman Jerry Jones, 27, was shot just above his bulletproof vest, said Charleston Mayor Danny Jones. Jerry Jones' sister-in-law, Pam Jones, said he was also shot in the arm.
The suspect, whose name has not been released, also was killed in the gravel area along Quick Road outside the city.
At a news conference Sunday evening, Jones and Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster said the family had just been told about the apparent friendly fire in a meeting with police.
"We have every reason to believe this was friendly fire," Jones said. "We wanted to get this out there because ... some people are pretty cynical and think we want to hold things back and we're not. The Sheriff's Department has to investigate this but we have every reason to believe the bullet came from a police officer."
On Saturday, the suspect rammed his truck into the car of a woman he knew about 9 p.m., Webster said. He led police on a chase, which was eventually called off, he said.
After midnight Sunday, Patrolman Jones spotted the suspect's truck on the East End, Webster said. He pursued the car from the intersection of Washington Street and Ruffner Avenue to Greenbrier Street, then onto Quick Road, Webster said. The suspect had a female passenger in the car, he said.
The suspect pulled over in a gravel area along Quick Road, Mayor Jones said. By then three other police officers in their patrol cars had joined the chase. The suspect rammed one of the police cars "full throttle" Webster said. The suspect tried to push through the vehicle, Webster said. He then backed up and rammed again into two other vehicles, trying to push them out of the way, Webster said. It was then that police opened fire, shooting the suspect and Jones, he said. Police said the woman was unharmed.
The man in the truck didn't have a gun, Webster said. He said he has watched a police video of the incident that was taken from one of the patrol cars. He said that although he was mortified at what happened, the officers were justified in their use of deadly force on the suspect.
"The vehicle was being used as a deadly weapon," Webster said.
The Kanawha County Sheriff's Department is investigating what happened, Webster said. Chief Deputy Johnny Rutherford said the investigation would be meticulous.
"We've had guys out since two this morning and they'll stay out as long as they have to," he said.
Other officers arrived at the scene shortly after the shooting. Jones was given CPR and later pronounced dead at the hospital, Pam Jones said.
Currently, five Charleston police officers are on paid administrative leave because of the incident, some because of post-traumatic stress from witnessing the scene after arriving after the shooting, Webster said. He stressed that administrative leave is mandatory after such incidents and while an investigation is ongoing.
As Jones and Webster held the news conference, weary Charleston police officers drifted in and out of the room.
"He was a young man in his 20s, with a young wife," Jones said. "About half the police department showed up last night, between 3 and 6 in the morning, at headquarters. His wife and parents were there too. Their son went to work and didn't make it back."
Early Sunday, Jerry Jones' sister-in-law Pam Jones talked to the Gazette by phone.