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Prosecutor: Cops emptied guns

Yurish still held knife

April 19, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said Monday that two West Virginia State Police troopers fired 18 rounds toward Michael B. Yurish last week as Yurish advanced toward his wife and police with a butcher knife.

"There were 18 rounds fired," Games-Neely said. "Not all 18 entered the body."

Yurish, 51, was pronounced dead in the living room of Joy Yurish's house at 92 Hedrick Ave. in Martinsburg. Joy Yurish was Michael Yurish's estranged wife.

A preliminary autopsy report indicates that between seven and 11 of the rounds struck Yurish. Officials are sure that Yurish was shot seven times, but they are trying to determine whether the other four wounds were entry or exit wounds, Games-Neely said.

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She would not say where the wounds were on Yurish's body and also declined to name the troopers, who remain on administrative leave with pay.

Each of the troopers was carrying a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun, West Virginia State Police 1st Sgt. Lisa Lambert has said.

Each gun had eight rounds in its clip plus an additional round in its chamber, meaning that both troopers emptied their guns, Games-Neely said.

Troopers are trained to shoot in rapid succession and in a certain pattern "to preserve life," Games-Neely said.

In this case, she said, Yurish continued to advance toward both the troopers and his wife, whom Games-Neely said was in close proximity to Yurish. Games-Neely said that Yurish never dropped the knife.

"Shots were fired initially to stop (Yurish), but he kept coming. He kept being aggressive," Games-Neely said.

The facts surrounding the shooting will be presented during the regular term of the May grand jury. Grand jurors, who meet behind closed doors, will determine whether to return an indictment against the troopers, Games-Neely said.

She said it is standard procedure to bring officer-involved shootings before a grand jury, but she said she believes the shooting was justified.

"The early indications I have is that this is fine, that what they did was valid," Games-Neely said. "I don't see a problem with this one."

At the time of the shooting, Yurish was free on bail on a charge of attempted murder, filed after he allegedly tried to strangle his wife with an extension cord in November 2004.

Joy Yurish also had taken out a Family Protection Act order against her husband. A condition of both the order and Yurish's bail was that he have no contact with his wife, court records state.

The troopers shot Michael Yurish at 2:48 a.m. on April 11, after Joy Yurish used a panic alarm issued to her by the Shenandoah Women's Center. The alarm alerted a 911 dispatcher, who called Joy Yurish and was able to ask her yes-or-no questions to figure out what was happening.

The troopers were at the home about nine minutes after Joy Yurish used her alarm. They went to the split-level house's back door and were able to see Michael Yurish through the dining room, Lambert has said.

"He was threatening her constantly and saying she was going to die that day," Lambert said last week.

Once the troopers were inside, Yurish did not comply with two commands to drop the knife, Lambert said.

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