April 22, 2024

Ralph Ennis in Winchester Medical Center, about 10 days after the incident, according to his visiting friends. /Photo courtesy of Ralph and Sue Waller

Nearly 13 months after the April 2022 death of Ralph C. Ennis, 77, two Warren County Sheriff’s deputies have been indicted by a Warren County Grand Jury.

Indicted were former deputy Zachary A. Fadely, 30, on one felony count of malicious wounding, and Tyler S. Poe, 25, on one felony count of unlawful wounding, related to the April 2, 2022, traffic stop of Mr. Ennis.

Fadely was terminated by the sheriff’s department shortly after the incident; Poe was initially placed on desk duty and later returned to his duties as a road deputy. Sources familiar with the process say much of Poe’s time on desk duty was spent working on the accreditation application that was eventually submitted to state officials by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. (WCSO)

Sheriff Mark Butler awarded Poe the Medal of Bravery, the Life Saving Medal, the Sheriff’s Citation for Exemplary Performance and an Outstanding Service Award in March.

If convicted, Fadely faces up to 20 years in prison, while Poe faces up to five years.

As previously reported, Mr. Ennis died in Hospice care about two weeks after being hospitalized for injuries– including a brain bleed–sustained during the April 2, 2022, traffic stop by Fadely and Poe.

Sheriff Mark Butler disseminated two media releases last year, with information regarding the traffic stop. In an April 24, 2022, release, entitled “Ennis Pursuit” Butler stated that, “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 drop his vehicle’s 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.”

However, a body-cam video and an incident report written by FRPD Cpl. R.D. Lowery, obtained through a Virginia Freedom of Information Act request, details a different scenario.

Officer Lowery wrote, “As I entered the Seven Eleven parking lot, I observed a dark colored Ford F150 parked on the east side of Seven Eleven. There were numerous Warren County Sheriff’s Office vehicles behind the Ford 150. I arrived on scene, and I observed a male open the driver side front door of the Ford F150 and exit the vehicle with his arms down by his side. The male appeared elderly and confused. The sirens were still activated on some of the WCSO vehicles. The male walked back towards the deputy while holding his keys and then turned around and walked towards the back of his truck and turned back to the deputy.

“Another deputy ran behind the male and placed his arms behind his back and jerked the male around towards the Ford F150. The deputy slammed the male into the camper top, face-first. I observed the male spit something out of on the pavement just below his body. Another deputy came from the side of the male and grabbed the male while the other deputy had his hands behind his back. The male was pushed over but his legs had caught the hitch on the back of the truck. Two deputies and the male were on the ground at this point. ”

Lowery continued, “There were numerous deputies on scene, and it appeared they had the male in custody…I learned later that the male had suffered a laceration to his head and was first transported to Warren Memorial Hospital and later take via ambulance to Winchester Medical Center.”

The body-cam footage showed Ennis initially being grabbed by Poe after slowly moving forward, apparently offering his keys to the deputy. Poe then cuffed Ennis’ hands behind his back as the elderly man’s head slammed into the back cab of his own pickup truck. Fadely then rushed into the scene, taking both Poe and Ennis to the ground.

Major Jeff Driskill previously stated that Ennis was taken to Warren Memorial Hospital where Emergency Department physicians suspected “signs of an internal head hemorrhage” after which Ennis was transported to Winchester Medical Center. Driskill previously stated that Mr. Ennis was “exhibiting signs of cognitive issues consistent with dementia or Alzheimer’s.”

Last August, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Manassas released the cause and manner of death for Ennis, 77, who died on April 15, 2022, 13 days after that traffic stop, during which he was injured, then hospitalized before being placed in the care of Hospice.

Northern District Administrator of Virginia’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Arkuie Williams, stated in an email that: “The cause of death is complications of Alzheimer disease, cerebral amyloid angiopathy, and hypotensive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. The manner of death is natural.”

Ralph C. Ennis’ son, Ian Ennis, has filed a $6 million federal lawsuit claiming that excessive force by the two sheriff’s deputies during a traffic stop led to his death.

The Shaw Report reached out to Sheriff Mark Butler and Major Jeff Driskill Monday afternoon, but neither responded to a request for comment. A subsequent request was submitted this morning, and copied to Diana Orye, the administrative assistant for records, but again, there was no response from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.

Other media outlets received a press release on the indictments, approved by Sheriff Butler, from Major Driskill at 7:48 a.m. this morning. However, The Shaw Report has not received that release.

The Virginia State Police handled the investigation. The Virginia Medical Examiner’s office ruled that Ennis died of natural causes. However, there was some controversy over whether those natural causes were exacerbated by the injuries Ennis received 13 days prior to his death. His family has filed a civil suit regarding Mr. Ennis’ death.

Below is the VSP Press Release in its entirety:

“On May 8, 2023, a Warren County grand jury handed up two felony indictments related to the investigation into an April 2022 traffic stop in Warren County.

“Zachary A. Fadely, 30, of Shenandoah County, Va., was indicted on one felony count of malicious wounding, and Tyler S. Poe, 25, of Warren County, Va., was indicted on one felony count of unlawful wounding. State police have been in contact with both men’s attorneys to arrange for each one to turn himself in to state police investigators as soon as possible.

“The indictments result from a traffic stop that occurred on April 2, 2022, at approximately 1:20 a.m. when the Warren County Sheriff’s Office encountered a vehicle traveling on Winchester Rd.

“The traffic stop was initiated for a speeding violation – 63-mph in a 55-mph zone. During the course of the traffic stop, the vehicle’s driver, Ralph C. Ennis, 77, of Gainesville, Va., was allegedly assaulted by Fadely and Poe. Ennis was transported to the Winchester Medical Center for treatment of injuries sustained during the traffic stop.

“The Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Culpeper Field Office is investigating the case.”

Online records indicate that both Fadley and Poe were arrested and charged before being released

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