(June 30, 2016)- Reviews by the Cape Coral Police Department and the State Attorney’s Office into an officer-involved shooting that occurred back on October 24, 2015, have been concluded, finding the Officer’s actions justified.
The October 24th incident began as a domestic disturbance at 1518 NE 43 Ln., Rolly Thomas, 34 came to the residence where his estranged girlfriend and mother of his children, Marsha Alexander lived with their children. Thomas was not living at the residence and Alexander had an active injunction for domestic violence and a no contact order in place against Thomas. Thomas came to the residence and dropped off one of his children, in violation of the order. Cape Coral Police Department responded, but Thomas left prior to Officers arriving. Officers completed a report so that the incident could be followed-up on later. Just before 1:00 AM, Cape Coral Police Department received another call to the residence-an open 9-1-1 line with what sounded like a domestic disturbance in progress.
As officers arrived, they knocked and announced their presence. The front door was ajar, and one of the children at the house told officers, “He [Thomas] is here.” Officers could hear two people arguing in a bedroom. Seconds later a gunshot rang out and Alexander came running out with an apparent gunshot wound to the chest. Thomas continued firing rounds towards officers through the interior walls of the house. Officers were able to get Alexander and 3 of the children out of the home and to safety.
This began a protracted incident between Thomas and officers on scene. Officers took positions of cover and repeatedly attempted to negotiate Thomas’s surrender. Thomas would talk with Officers, then fire rounds at them from a pistol and a pump-action shotgun. In spite of this, Officer Matthew Mills, a 9-year veteran, attempted to maintain a dialogue with Thomas while taking cover. That was until Thomas, standing partially in the front doorway of the house, pointed a shotgun at officers outside the residence. Using his department-approved patrol rifle, Officer Mills fired at Thomas, fatally wounding him. Unbeknownst to Officer Mills, Thomas was holding his infant son, Ray, just outside of view from the doorway.
Thomas fell and withdrew into the residence. Later, with the assistance of SWAT, Officers were able to make entry into the home. Ray Thomas was located and taken out of the home and transported for medical treatment of a gunshot wound to the thigh. Another child was located asleep in the home and was removed for safety. Rolly Thomas was found deceased in the residence.
The case was investigated by the Investigative Services Bureau of the Cape Coral Police Department and turned over to the State Attorney’s Office. At the conclusion of the criminal case, the Professional Standards Bureau conducted its internal review of the incident.
The internal review by the Professional Standards Bureau of the Cape Coral Police Department found that:
“Based on the information provided in Detective Bearman’s criminal investigation report, statements from the involved parties, witnesses, Body Worn Camera video, Medical Examiner’s autopsy report, the facts provided by the supervisors, and the statements given by the officers, and in comparison with Department General Orders, it is determined:
- The exhibition of the ﬁrearms were justified and in accordance with training.
- The ﬁring of the weapon was within departmental policy.”
The review of the officer-involved shooting by the State Attorney’s Office concluded that:
“The totality of the evidence supports the conclusion that Officer Mills was justified in the use of deadly force. Thomas violated a domestic violence injunction for protection earlier in the evening which required the police to be called. Thomas returned after midnight, forced himself into the residence armed with a pistol and axe and shot Marsha Alexander. Thomas committed multiple forcible felonies as deﬁned by F.S. §776.08 to include (but not necessarily limited to) armed burglary (F.S. §810.02(2)(b)); aggravated battery (F.S. §784.045); aggravated stalking (F.S. §§784.048(3) or (4)) and shooting at or within a dwelling (F.S. §790.l0), which could legally fall within the catch-all language of F.S. §776.08. All of the crimes alleged above carry prison sentences with some carrying additional minimum/mandatory sentences pursuant to Florida Statute §775 .087 (2015). The danger presented to innocent civilians and to the assembled police officers lawfully carrying out their duties by the actions of Rolly Thomas justified the use of deadly force by Officer Mills…”
“It is unfortunate that Ray Thomas was also shot in the leg during this incident. Thankfully, the child survived his gunshot wound. The evidence supports the logical inference that Rolly Thomas used Ray Thomas as a hostage. At approximately 1:28 AM Rolly Thomas appeared in the front doorway holding Ray Thomas and a shotgun. Rolly Thomas raised his shotgun towards officers outside the residence after having fired his shotgun multiple times within the residence and in close proximity to officers inside and outside the residence. Officer Mills fired his duty rifle. It must be concluded that Mills felt this was the best opportunity to eliminate the threat that Rolly Thomas posed. The shooting of Ray Thomas does not rise to the level of criminal conduct. Officer Mills lacked mens rea, or intent, to cause great bodily harm against Ray Thomas for the purposes of aggravated battery (F.S. §784.045). Additionally, given the heightened danger posed by Rolly Thomas’ behavior, it is concluded that Officer Mills did not commit culpable negligence (F.S. §784.05)…Officer Mills was justified in using deadly force in order to quell the dangers posed by Rolly Thomas during the early morning hours of October 24, 2015. For the reasons set forth above, there is no basis for further action by this office. This matter should be closed.”
From Interim Police Chief Dave Newlan:
“The actions of Rolly Thomas on October 24, 2015 were nothing short of horrific. He went to the home that evening armed with a gun and an axe with the intent to kill. The quick actions of the first officers on scene no doubt saved the lives of Marsha Alexander and the first 3 children rescued from the home. The officers did everything they could to engage Rolly Thomas and negotiate a peaceful surrender and the safety of the remaining 2 children, even as he shot at them. Unfortunately, Rolly Thomas chose differently.
Without regard for anyone, Thomas continued his armed assault, pointing a shotgun at officers outside the home, placing them in imminent, mortal danger. Officer Matthew Mills, a 9-year veteran of the Cape Coral Police Department, was one of the officers faced with this threat that night. The taking of a life is something we all hope will never happen in our career in law enforcement. Sometimes the actions of a suspect leave us no choice. This was one of those times. Under immediate threat from Thomas and his shotgun, Officer Mills took advantage of a limited tactical window and shot Rolly Thomas as he pointed that shotgun from a partially concealed position in the front doorway of the home. Officer Mills took the only shot he had. He did his job and stopped the threat. Unknown at the time, Rolly Thomas was actually holding his infant son, Ray, in one arm as he shot at officers with the other. Sadly, Ray was injured in the gun battle. Thankfully we were able to get to him and get him medical attention. Make no mistake, everything that happened that night was the direct result of choices made by Rolly Thomas.
The community was shaken by this tragic incident. A family was destroyed. Marsha and Ray will carry the physical scars for the rest of their lives. An officer was forced to take a life. The physical and mental healing is underway, but it will take time. The Cape Coral Police Department will continue to help and support Marsha and the children through our Victim Assistance Unit in whatever way we can. Officer Mills is back to work, doing what he took an oath to do, with the full support of this Department and this community.”
The victims continue to recover from the injuries they sustained that night. Officer Mills has returned to full duty here at the Cape Coral Police Department.
Link to previous news release: UPDATE: Name of Suspect From Weekend Shooting Released
Link to letter from State Attorney, Steve Russel: PDF