Webster County, Mo. Prosecutor discusses officer-involved shooting; provides investigative interviews

Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 11:35 PM CST
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WEBSTER COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) - After a thorough investigation and review of multiple law enforcement agencies’ reports, the Webster County Prosecuting Attorney concluded that the fatal shooting of a wanted man was justified.

The investigation concluded that Webster County Sheriff Roye Cole shot and killed 37-year-old David Ray Williams on Sept. 9 after an hours-long manhunt near Seymour. The investigation states that Williams committed multiple crimes leading up to the manhunt, and even during the search. Documents also state that Williams fired a gun at responding officers during parts of their search.

The Webster County Prosecuting Attorney met with KY3 on Tuesday to discuss the finalized investigation.

“There were multiple agencies that had to put this together,” Webster County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Berkstresser said. “And then there was a case agent who had to get it all put together and then hand it off to me. It takes time.”

After reviewing the case, Berkstresser said it was clear that Sheriff Cole acted in a reasonable manner in order to protect others. In addition to discussing the investigation, Berkstresser’s office provided investigative interviews to KY3.

One of those interviews included Sheriff Roye Cole’s initial interview with detectives a few days after the incident.

The search for Williams on Sept. 9 was filled with threats, including an exchange of gunfire after Williams fired at deputies. The report states that Williams also aimed a stolen firearm at law enforcement multiple times throughout the hours-long search.

”Mark basically ducks out of the way, and I told him, I said, if he points that gun again you shoot him,” Sheriff Cole described in his interview with detectives. “You can’t take that risk.”

Prosecuting Attorney Berkstresser said all of the various reports lined up, but from different perspectives. At least five different agencies provided reports on the incident.

”They come at it from different angles and maybe even different points of time,” he said. “So not inconsistent, just melding it together is a little difficult, because they’re from different points of view.”

Law enforcement eventually surrounded Williams high up in a tree stand in a wooded area near Seymour. A highway patrol helicopter also began circling above. The report indicates that communication was one of the many barriers.

”I couldn’t talk to the helicopter,” Sheriff Cole told detectives. “They had to tell their dispatch who told our dispatch who told [a law enforcement officer] who told me.”

While coordination efforts assembled, Berkstresser said all agencies were up against the clock.

“I think they were still trying to organize,” he said. “And while they had coordinated some, I believe that they had still wished they could have a little bit more time before that happened. However, I think they had to act quickly.”

Documents obtained by KY3 show a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper’s weapon accidentally went off twice during the incident. The rifles safety was off and the gun discharged as the trooper attempted to adjust his radio’s volume.

Williams had already been aiming at officers at that point.

”The accidental discharge caused him [Williams], when he was already pointing at somebody, to shoulder it,” Berkstresser said. “It was pointed in a different direction. He swung it pretty dramatically in a different direction.”

Shortly after the accidental discharge, Sheriff Cole fired that fatal shot.

”I hear shots fired,” Cole told detectives. “No idea who was shooting them, but it seemed reasonable to me that he was doing it because he was pointing his gun. And so when I saw him, he pointed at one direction, then he goes to aim. So I shot him.”

Cole said he worried about others’ lives.

”I kept having visions of having to go tell deputies’ spouses that they’d been shot,” he said.

A detective asked Sheriff Cole if he thought he had any other choice but to fire at Williams.

“If I thought I had another choice I wouldn’t have,” he responded. “But he kept pointing the gun.”

After the shooting, Cole climbed the tree and carried Williams down on his back. He attempted CPR along with others on scene. Williams died on scene.

”It was clear that somebody, some law enforcement needed to act to protect the safety of others,” Berkstresser said.

KY3 asked Highway Patrol about the accidental discharge, it directed all questions to the prosecutor’s office. MSHP also told KY3 that results of any internal reviews, including disciplinary action, are closed records.

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