The Washington County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday their internal investigation found Det. Scott McAfee was “justified in using deadly force” when he shot and killed Joshua Thomas, 38, at his Farmington residence on March 12.
McaFee has been accused of using excessive and deadly force before. However, Sheriff Tim Helder said those cases didn't factor into this investigation since each incident is judged separately.
Sheriff Helder added that getting hit with a crowbar is considered a deadly weapon because it can cause brain injury or death.
"My deputies have a right to protect themselves and I empower them to do that and I encourage them to do that," said Helder.
"Fortunately, fatal shootings where we have to use deadly force a few and far between and I'm very thankful for that but when it's used we are going to investigate it, we are going to ensure it was done properly and I'm telling you in this case it was done right," said Helder.
The detective is exonerated and has been cleared for duty after attending counseling. He is expected to return to work on April 2. It’s common procedure that officers involved in deadly shootings undergo counseling, according to Kelly Cantrell with the sheriff’s office.
The sheriff’s office released the following statement from Dr. Stephen Nichols’ report: “As you know, law enforcement officers differ as to how they react to perceived threat. Those that react slowly are less likely to fire their weapon, but perhaps more likely to be assaulted. Those who respond rapidly are more likely to fire their weapon, but less likely to be assaulted. Clearly, Deputy McAfee falls into the second category. He is a former Marine who responds aggressively when threatened. I don’t consider this a personality flaw, but rather a response style that, like other styles, has its’ advantages and disadvantages.”
Det. McAfee shot the suspect after Thomas tried to hit him with a crowbar during an arrest attempt. The officers were there to investigate rape allegations.
Below are the rest of the findings in the report from the sheriff’s office:
- Detectives were lawful in their actions.
- Detectives were at the residence lawfully and had probable cause to arrest Joshua Thomas, for Rape (Ark Criminal Code 5-14-103- Class Y Felony).
- Detective McAfee acted in accordance with Washington County’s Arrest Policy, Section 6 when he told Thomas he was under arrest.
- Joshua Thomas committed Aggravated Assault (Ark Code 5-14-204-Class D Felony) against Detective McAfee when he used a crowbar as a deadly weapon against Detective McAfee.
- Detective McAfee was justified in using deadly force and acted in accordance with Washington County’s Use of Force Patrol Policy, Section 75 when he took steps to protect his own life.
- The internal investigation concluded that Detective Scott McAfee is exonerated in this incident.
The Arkansas State Police is conducting an external investigation of the incident.