By Linda Cicoira
This week in Virginia Beach Circuit Court, a police officer in that city was found liable in a $1 million civil suit regarding the fatal shooting of a disabled veteran during a standoff in 2019.
In Accomack, seven years earlier, the same Virginia Beach officer, Bradley Scott Colas, then 23, wasn’t prosecuted for allegedly stabbing two Atlantic firefighters and shooting at another during an off-duty episode that occurred near Hallwood. The emergency volunteers came to the scene of a traffic accident in which a police report stated Colas’ Honda “ran off the road and struck a tree.”
In the old case, Colas blamed his bizarre behavior on the antibiotic Biaxin, which he was taking for a respiratory infection. It was believed he was suffering from “involuntary intoxication.” He became obsessed with the number four and a girlfriend who lived up north, among other things. He called his parents to report his agitation and was told to get some sleep. Instead, he left his home and traveled up Lankford Highway. He was sent for a psych exam, later filed a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company, and eventually went back to work and moved up the ladder.
In the more recent case, the family of the Virginia Beach man who was killed, sued Colas, and another officer. A jury found Colas liable. The family of the victim said their primary goal in the lawsuit was to get answers about what happened that day. The city will be responsible for the actual award and plans to file motions challenging the verdict and possibly appeal.
Colas is reportedly still employed as a Virginia Beach police officer and has the department’s “full support.” Separate investigations by Virginia Beach police and prosecutors determined the shooting was justified. At the time of the shooting, 57-year-old Jeffrey Tyree was in a mental health crisis, according to his family. He argued with his siblings for days about the care of their dying mother and was threatening one of his brothers when the brother called police.
Tyree was in the backyard, holding a large knife and threatening to kill himself, when officers arrived. The yard was surrounded by a waist-high, chain-link fence and officers positioned themselves around it. After more than two hours of negotiating, Tyree agreed to put the knife down so he could get some cigarettes from an officer standing just outside the fence.
He was reaching down to retrieve the knife when the other officer ran up from behind and tackled him. Colas reportedly fired one shot as the two men were on the ground, striking Tyree in the shoulder. He died while being treated in a waiting ambulance.
The two police supervisors testified the plan had been to fire a nonlethal projectile at Tyree to distract him and get the knife.
“This was a disabled man lying flat on his back with his knees up,” said Kevin Martingayle, one of the family’s attorneys. “He did nothing that could reasonably be considered a threatening move.”