Press Release

Press Release — Ennis Pursuit Update



Mark A. But­ler, Sher­iff


Vehi­cle Pur­suit (Update) – Event date: April 02, 2022

This is an update to the Com­mu­ni­ty Brief­ing dat­ed April 16, 2022 per­tain­ing to the ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tion of the events relat­ed to Mr. Ralph Ennis and his con­tacts with the War­ren Coun­ty Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) that occurred in the Coun­ty of War­ren, Vir­ginia between March 11 and April 02, 2022.

Con­trary to an ear­li­er media report, the first time the WCSO had con­tact with Mr. Ennis was on the morn­ing of March 11, 2022. On that day, Ralph C. Ennis (age 77), was entered as a Sil­ver Alert — miss­ing and endan­gered per­son by the Penn­syl­va­nia State Police. Active attempts to locate him con­firmed his cel­lu­lar phone was active at 10:24 AM, and mov­ing south­bound along Inter­state 81 from the City of Win­ches­ter into War­ren Coun­ty. This infor­ma­tion was broad­cast­ed to WCSO deputies, who began vig­or­ous­ly check­ing var­i­ous areas through­out the coun­ty in an attempt to locate Mr. Ennis and his sil­ver 2020 Ford Ranger pick­up truck with a Penn­syl­va­nia reg­is­tra­tion, start­ing in the area of the River­ton Com­mons shop­ping center.

The broad area search con­tin­ued until 12:30 PM, when WCSO Deputy C. Ander­son locat­ed Mr. Ennis’ unoc­cu­pied Ford pick­up in near Chester Street and Main Street in the Town of Front Roy­al. The Town of Front Roy­al Police Depart­ment was noti­fied, and WCSO Sergeant C. Brown locat­ed Mr. Ennis at the Main Street Pawn at 12:40 PM.

Accord­ing to the WCSO report of this inci­dent, Sergeant Brown spoke with Mr. Ennis and he seemed con­fused and was aware of his cur­rent loca­tion, although not sure of the town he was in. Sergeant Brown made con­tact with the adult son of Mr. Ennis, who resides in Staunton, Vir­ginia and informed the son of the sit­u­a­tion. The son advised he was will­ing to pick up his father at approx­i­mate­ly 06:30 PM. Sergeant Brown, act­ing out of con­cern for Mr. Ennis and not wish­ing him to remain unat­tend­ed for six hours, self-elf-ini­ti­at­ed con­tact with the Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Social Ser­vices and advised them of the sit­u­a­tion. Sergeant Brown request­ed to have Mr. Ennis brought to social ser­vices and was informed social ser­vices would not be able to facil­i­tate this due to their staffing shortage.

Sergeant Brown con­tin­ued to seek a viable and safe solu­tion for the care of Mr. Ennis after his fam­i­ly was unable to pick him up in a time­ly man­ner. Sergeant Brown spoke with a local busi­ness­man who gra­cious­ly offered to let Mr. Ennis stay at his shop until fam­i­ly arrived to assume care for him. Sergeant Brown then con­tact­ed Social Ser­vices and advised them that a safe­ty plan for Mr. Ennis was devel­oped, and he had a tem­po­rary safe and super­vised place to remain. This was coor­di­nat­ed with both social ser­vices and the fam­i­ly of Mr. Ennis. The Penn­syl­va­nia State Police was noti­fied at 01:51 PM of the safe recov­ery of Mr. Ennis and he was removed from the alert system.

Major Jef­frey Driskill rec­og­nizes Sergeant Cade Brown, Deputy Chris Ander­son and his canine part­ner Roost­er, the many assist­ing deputies and the 911 Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Cen­ter dis­patch­ers for their stead­fast and pro­fes­sion­al efforts in locat­ing Mr. Ennis on March 11, 2022. “This office has a proud and proven track record of respond­ing to the urgent need to locate miss­ing and endan­gered per­sons, par­tic­u­lar­ly our seniors” stat­ed Major Driskill. This year alone, the WCSO has spent hun­dreds of man­hours search­ing for, find­ing, and assist­ing per­sons who are miss­ing, endan­gered, sui­ci­dal and some­times have no one to prop­er­ly care for them. Accord­ing to Sher­iff Mark But­ler, some of these efforts have involved the coor­di­nat­ed efforts of many, many mutu­al aid part­ners “that pro­vide a deeply car­ing and human response to the need of per­sons who require our help the most.”

There was no fur­ther con­tact with Mr. Ennis by the WCSO until the ear­ly morn­ing pur­suit of Mr. Ennis by the WCSO deputies, with assis­tance of the Town of Front Roy­al Police Depart­ment on April 02, 2022 at 01:21 AM. Major Driskill con­firmed Mr. Ennis sub­se­quent­ly was in the care of two local hos­pi­tals and hos­pice between April 2, 2022 and the ear­ly morn­ing hours of April 15, 2022 when the WCSO was made aware of his death in the care of Blueridge Hos­pice of Win­ches­ter, Virginia.

The WCSO wish­es to con­firm sev­er­al very impor­tant facts to ensure the pub­lic is aware Sher­iff Mark But­ler and his office are not only being as trans­par­ent as pos­si­ble, but they are being proac­tive in every legal­ly accept­able man­ner. This cor­rects an inac­cu­rate and mis­lead­ing media report as well as mis­in­for­ma­tion on social media.

Not only has the Sheriff’s Office wel­comed the crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion being con­duct­ed by the Vir­ginia State Police, this office had already con­tact­ed the Com­mon­wealth Attorney’s Office and request­ed a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor be assigned in assist­ing the state police, which was con­firmed by Mr. John Bell as a best prac­tice for legal scruti­ny. The WCSO was also the agency first request­ing the autop­sy of Mr. Ennis, which was ini­ti­at­ed a short nine and half hours after his death.

Sher­iff But­ler rec­og­nizes this inci­dent will gen­er­ate pub­lic inter­est, and per­haps scruti­ny; how­ev­er, wants to ensure the com­mu­ni­ty his office is doing their due dili­gence under the law. This includes the inter­nal admin­is­tra­tive review of the pur­suit, traf­fic stop, and the arrest con­tact by WCSO deputies with Mr. Ennis in accor­dance to its poli­cies and pro­ce­dures. To achieve this in an objec­tive and fair man­ner, Major Driskill con­firms that the WCSO will con­vene a Board of Inquiry to review the use of force relat­ed to the deten­tion of Mr. Ennis. This board of inquiry is intend­ed to review all facts or infor­ma­tion to resolve an alle­ga­tion of mis­con­duct in the event of a police shoot­ing, death, or seri­ous injury of an offi­cer or cit­i­zen killed or injured inci­dent to any law-enforce­ment actions.

The board of inquiry will con­sist of five senior, com­mand staff offi­cers, to include a near­by law enforce­ment agency or the state police. When empan­eled, the board will review all the facts and make a rec­om­men­da­tion per­tain­ing to any dis­ci­pli­nary action to the Sher­iff. The board chair­man shall write, in a mem­o­ran­dum to the file, a sum­ma­ry of the pro­ceed­ings, names of board mem­bers, and the board’s rec­om­men­da­tions and findings.

Sher­iff But­ler reminds the pub­lic he will refrain from judge­ment until all the facts have been gath­ered and eval­u­at­ed by those tasked with its review, includ­ing the Office of the Chief Med­ical Exam­in­er, Vir­ginia State Police, and the Com­mon­wealth Attorney’s office.

The WCSO has placed one deputy on paid admin­is­tra­tive leave and one deputy was re-assigned to admin­is­tra­tive duties, which Major Driskill cau­tions is not an indi­ca­tion of wrong-doing or fault on behalf of any per­son­nel. It is an accept­ed pro­fes­sion­al prac­tice to safe­guard per­son­nel, the pub­lic, and the process itself. Major Driskill states this is a mat­ter of per­son­nel, and noth­ing fur­ther can be dis­closed at this time due to the ongo­ing con­cur­rent investigations.

Approved for release on April 24, 2022: Major Jef­frey Driskill, Sr., Major