Deadly Webster County officer-involved shooting in September 2021 ruled as justified

Report concludes Webster County Sheriff fired fatal shot
Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 12:27 AM CST
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WEBSTER COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) - A deadly officer-involved shooting that took place in September 2021 has been ruled as justified.

On Sept. 9, 2021, law enforcement shot and killed 37-year-old David Ray Williams after an hours-long manhunt. According to documents obtained by KY3 News, the Webster County Sheriff fired that fatal shot. An investigation into the incident concluded that Webster County Sheriff Roye Cole’s actions were justified.

Documents state that Sheriff Cole “justifiably acted to preserve the life and health of others.”

The incident started after law enforcement received several reports of “serious criminal acts,” including arson, a stolen vehicle, and a stolen firearm in the early morning hours of Sept. 9. Law enforcement was dispatched to the Seymour area.

According to documents shared with KY3, an eyewitness saw Williams point and fire the rifle at a Webster County deputy. The report states that the deputy returned fire, shooting at Williams six times. The deputy did not hit Williams. Williams also pointed the weapon at a Seymour police officer. Both continued to track Williams.

The report said Williams ran from the area with the gun when Sheriff Cole arrived to assist the deputy.

Law enforcement eventually located Williams once again with the help of witnesses nearby. Williams ran into a wooded area and climbed into an elevated hunting stand to obtain “a visual advantage over encroaching law enforcement,” according to investigative documents.

Prior to climbing the tree, documents state that Williams interacted with the Amish in the area. The report said he committed other crimes during that time, including trespassing, harassment, arson, and attempted burglary.

Missouri State Highway Patrol also assisted in the manhunt by providing a helicopter. The helicopter was able to locate the exact location of Williams in the woods.

According to the report, Williams refused to disarm and shouted threats to kill law enforcement officers approaching his location in the tree stand. The report also indicates that Williams was “shouldering” the rifle and pointing it at law enforcement. The gun had been stolen earlier in the day along with ammunition.

Documents state that Williams continued to aim the weapon at law enforcement. Around 1:20 p.m. an MSHP trooper assisting in the search accidentally discharged his weapon, sending off two gunshots. Reports show that the accidental discharge occurred while the trooper was “traversing the heavy bush/wooded area.”

The report states that Williams had been aiming his weapon at law enforcement when the accidental discharge occurred.

“Due to the terrain and distance, nearby law enforcement heard the gunshots but were unable to determine the source and precise location of the gunfire,” the report read.

Radio communication between law enforcement also conveyed that other law enforcement were not aware of where the gunfire came from at the time of the accidental discharge.

Documents specify that Sheriff Cole was also not aware of the accidental discharge that occurred. It happened while Cole observed Williams adjusting the direction of the gun and pulling the gun into his shoulder yet again.

“Having knowledge of the earlier gunshot at [a Webster County deputy], observing Williams pointing the gun at law enforcement, and believing Williams may have fired again at law enforcement, Sheriff Cole fired a shot at Williams, striking him in the chest.”

Sheriff Cole and other law enforcement on the scene approached Williams when they determined he was no longer holding the rifle. Cole and others on the scene attempted to render CPR to Williams, but he was eventually pronounced dead on the scene.

Following the incident, the Webster County Sheriff’s Office contacted the Sheriff’s Critical Incident Team (SCIT) and requested an investigation into the shooting incidents. The team consists of Greene County, Christian County, Lawrence County, and Webster County. The agencies work together to assist in the investigations of officer-involved shooting incidents.

The investigation package was submitted on Oct. 7 by the various agencies involved in compiling reports. The package was then reviewed by the Webster County Prosecuting Attorney to determine if any charges needed to be filed.

The Webster County Prosecuting Attorney met with case agents on the investigation. He also requested that another area prosecuting attorney review portions of evidence as well.

Following that review, the Webster County Prosecuting Attorney concluded that Sheriff Cole’s actions were justified. The report states that Cole’s “defense of others was reasonable under all circumstances.”

An autopsy concluded that Williams died from a gunshot wound to the chest. Toxicology results also showed that Williams had numerous drugs in his system, including methamphetamine.

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