No charges to filed against deputy
KEOSAUQUA — No criminal charges will be filed against Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jon Tharp who fatally shot 59-year-old Robert Dooley of Brighton Oct. 16 near Cantril.
The Van Buren County Attorney Office announced the decision Monday after reviewing evidence and information collected by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation about the incident.
According to a press release from the Van Buren County Attorney Office, the reviewed included 911 calls, the sheriff’s office telephone log, witness statements, the DCI interview with Tharp, photographs of the scene, images from the patrol car’s in-dash camera and more.
The press release states about 11 a.m. Oct. 16, Tharp and Chief Deputy Brad Hudson responded in Hudson’s patrol car to a 911 report of a male subject, later identified as Dooley, walking west on Highway 2 east of Cantril. The 911 caller indicated Dooley was armed with a rifle, wearing a military uniform and making obscene gestures at passing motorists.
While enroute, the deputies were advised Dooley appeared to be walking away from a disabled vehicle that was reportedly displaying an upside-down United States flag, and other motorists confirmed he was making obscene gestures toward them.
Hudson turned on his patrol car’s emergency lights, but did not activate its siren because he did not want a potential gunman to hear their approach and have an opportunity to move into a concealed or defensive position.
The officers did see a vehicle parked on the westbound shoulder of Highway 2 near Hickory Avenue. The truck lid was up, and Hudson saw a flag hanging upside down near the trunk.
The officers continued on Highway 2 and saw Dooley walking west along the shoulder near 16985 Highway 2. Tharp called out to Hudson that he could see a man with a rifle, and Hudson saw Dooley make an obscene gesture at an eastbound vehicle.
Hudson pulled onto the shoulder behind Dooley, who continued to walk westbound, while Tharp was leaning out the window with his rifle covering Dooley. Tharp began shouting commands for Dooley to drop his weapon.
Hudson stopped his patrol car about 20 yards from Dooley and as he began to get out, he could hear Tharp shouting for Dooley to drop his weapon.
Dooley appeared to be holding a rifle, and as he turned, he raised the barrel up toward Tharp’s position. Both deputies believed Dooley was raising the rifle in order to fire it at them. Hudson acquired a sight picture of Dooley through his optical sight and as he was preparing to engage Dooley, he heard Tharp fire one round. Hudson saw the round hit Dooley and saw Dooley fall to the ground and lay motionless.
The deputies determined Tharp’s shot killed Dooley instantly, and the observation was confirmed by the Van Buren County medical examiner at about 12:03 p.m.
Dooley’s weapon was found to be a vintage air rifle manufactured to replicate a Winchester Model 1894 lever action. A green vinyl-covered wire was looped through a ring on the rifle and over Dooley’s right arm.
According to the county attorney’s office, the thorough investigation has determined Tharp’s actions were justified and performed within the scope of his employment as a deputy sheriff and were intended as a defensive measure to protect himself and others from the actions of Dooley.