Press Release — Ennis Pursuit
WARREN COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
200 SKYLINE VISTA DRIVE · FRONT ROYAL, VIRGINIA 22630
Mark A. Butler, Sheriff
Vehicle Pursuit – April 02, 2022
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office presents this informational briefing in the interest of being responsible and transparent to the public we serve. We acknowledge that any incident involving law enforcement often generates great interest; however, some questions at the onset of an investigation cannot be answered because it may be premature to do so until all the facts are gathered and evaluated by those agencies responsible to investigate. The following is a summary of the events related to a recent vehicle pursuit that occurred in the County of Warren on April 02, 2022.
On Saturday, April 02, 2022 at approximately 01:21 AM, a Warren County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) deputy observed a red 2016, Ford F‑150 pickup truck southbound on Winchester Road near Route 639, travelling 63 miles an hour in a posted 55 MPH zone. The deputy proceeded to follow the vehicle and observed it driving erratically, swaying side to side, crossing the center line, weaving back and forth between the two lanes, and eventually crossing over the sold line onto the shoulder of the roadway.
The deputy activated his emergency lights in an attempt to get the driver to stop. The driver, later identified as Ralph Carlton Ennis, age 77, of Gainesville, Virginia, continued to avoid stopping and drove erratically southbound on Winchester Road. The pursuit continued due to the driver’s actions being consistent with a person driving impaired and recklessly posing a threat to themselves and the public.
As the pursuit continued approximately 3.75 miles, the driver refused to yield to the deputy’s emergency vehicle even after displaying emergency lights and siren. The pursuit approached the intersection of Winchester Road and Country Club Road, which is the gateway to the more populated area of the Town of Front Royal.
The WCSO Patrol Supervisor requested the assistance of the Front Royal Police Department, for the deployment of stop sticks in the event they were necessary to stop the fleeing vehicle. At approximately 01:24 AM, the driver of the Ford truck improperly drove across the warning track markings of Winchester Road and entered the parking lot of the Royal Farms gas and convenience store.
The driver continued to the 7–11 Store at 251 Crooked Run Plaza, where Mr. Ennis parked his truck in a parking area adjacent to the store. By this time, additional WCSO deputies and a Front Royal Police Officer were on scene, or just arriving as the high-risk traffic stop was underway.
A WCSO deputy gave commands to the driver to exit his truck, which he did, and immediately walked toward the deputies. Mr. Ennis refused to comply with commands to stop, turn around and to drop his vehicles keys, which he held in his hand.
Mr. Ennis’ continued failure to comply with the lawful orders to stop, resulted in a WCSO deputy approaching Mr. Ennis from behind, and grabbing his arms in an attempt to control Ennis and place him under arrest. The deputy continued to give him commands to stop resisting, drop the keys and place his hands behind his back as Mr. Ennis was escorted several feet away to the rear of his pickup truck.
While attempting to restrain Mr. Ennis, two deputies and Ennis fell over the protruding trailer hitch of his pickup truck. Mr. Ennis sustained non-life threatening injuries, such as a cut to the ring finger of his right hand caused by the jagged edge of his truck tailgate, and a cut above his right brow near his forehead.
The deputies were able to handcuff Mr. Ennis without further incident, sat him upright in the recovery position and immediately treated his head and hand wound as additional medical assistance was summoned. Mr. Ennis was conscious and responding to medical questions prior to being transported by the Warren County Fire and Rescue ambulance to Warren Memorial Hospital (WMH) at 02:06 AM. One WCSO deputy sustained a laceration on his hand during the attempt to restrain and arrest the driver. The deputy was treated and released at WMH for his injury.
At the WMH, Mr. Ennis was treated for his injuries and while conversing with doctors it was determined he was exhibiting signs of a hemorrhage within his head, and was soon transported by ambulance to Winchester Medical Center for further evaluation. While at the WMH it became apparent to medical staff that Mr. Ennis was exhibiting signs of having cognitive issues consistent with dementia or Alzheimer’s and mental health assistance was sought through Northwestern Community Services; however, providing him immediate physical care took precedence over mental hygiene efforts at that time.
The criminal investigation by the WCSO was paused out of necessity due to Mr. Ennis being admitted to the hospital. It was determined Mr. Ennis had recently been reported as missing by his wife on March 11, 2022, and was later located in the Town of Front Royal. Conversations with his family revealed Mr. Ennis had a history of mental illness and dementia. Criminal charges against Mr. Ennis remained open due to the active and ongoing investigation. This matter was concurrently being investigated by the Virginia State Police, with the full support and cooperation of the Sheriff’s Office.
On April 15, 2022 at approximately 10:37 AM, the WCSO was notified by an Investigator with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia that Ralph Ennis had passed away at 04:08 AM under the care of Blue Ridge Hospice of Winchester, Virginia. Mr. Ennis had been in the care of Winchester Hospital since being admitted on April 02, 2022. The WCSO requested and was granted a full medical examination of Mr. Ennis, that was conducted on April 15th at 01:30 PM with the knowledge and support of the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. Actual cause of death is pending official notification by the Medical Examiner’s Office.
The WCSO wishes to thank the media for their interest and patience as the facts of this event become clearer. We also ask the public’s assistance in that anyone having information relevant to this incident to please contact Major Jeffrey Driskill of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office at 540 636‑5922 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The WCSO is conducting an internal investigation of the incident and compliance with established policy, training and procedures.
Approved for release on April 16, 2022: Major Jeffrey Driskill, Sr., Major