PULASKI — A man who was wounded by law enforcement officers after leveling a shotgun at them during a February standoff on Interstate 81’s shoulder received probation and a suspended prison sentence Monday.
Donovan Mathew Tatro, 24, of Clarksville, Tennessee, pleaded guilty in Pulaski County Circuit Court to discharging a firearm from a vehicle. In an agreement worked out by his attorney, Jonathan Fisher of Blacksburg, and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Justin Griffith, three charges of assaulting a law enforcement officer were dropped. Judge Brad Finch imposed a 10-year prison term, with all 10 years suspended.
Tatro will be supervised by the probation office for five years and must undergo whatever mental health and substance abuse screenings and treatment that the office recommends, Finch said.
Tatro and Fisher told the judge that the prosecution’s evidence was sufficient to prove Tatro’s guilt on the firearm charge.
Summarizing the evidence, Griffith said Tatro seemed “unequivocally suicidal” in the early hours of Feb. 3, when he encountered Virginia State Police troopers and Pulaski County sheriff’s deputies.
There had been a hit-and-run in the town of Pulaski and town police were looking for Tatro, said Griffith, who gave no other details about the town incident.
In the midst of that search, Tatro called an emergency dispatcher and said he was parked on the side of northbound I-81 near mile marker 105. He said he had a loaded shotgun, that he had been drinking, and that he wanted police to shoot him or he would kill himself, Griffith said.
Police closed parts of the interstate and state troopers and sheriff’s deputies approached Tatro’s pickup truck. The officers asked Tatro to put down his gun but he refused and fired it out the window of the parked truck, Griffith said.
What happened next was not discussed at Monday’s hearing but was detailed in a February opinion issued by Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Fleenor.
According to Fleenor’s account, after Tatro fired, he got out of his pickup with the shotgun and walked toward officers. They told him again to put down the shotgun and Tatro fired a second time, into a wooded embankment beside the interstate. Tatro then racked the pump action gun to ready it for firing again, Fleenor wrote in February.
“Tatro told the officers that he didn’t want to hurt them but he would if he had to,” Fleenor wrote. When Tatro raised his weapon toward the officers, a deputy and a state trooper each fired a single shot from their own guns, Fleenor wrote.
Tatro was hit in the abdomen. Officers rendered first aid and Tatro was taken to a hospital, Fleenor wrote.
Fleenor determined that the officers’ shooting was a justified act of self-defense and defense of others.