Police, victimís family, friends differ on shooting
By Mark Bowes
A Pagans Motorcycle Club member was fatally shot by police at his Dinwiddie County home after he refused an order to drop a shotgun as state and federal officers entered to serve a search warrant, state police said yesterday.
After announcing their presence and forcibly entering the house in the 10000 block of Halifax Road early Tuesday, the officers were confronted by James M. Hicks Jr., 45, who was armed with a shotgun, said state police Sgt. Thomas Molnar.
Hicks was then shot multiple times after he refused to drop his weapon, Molnar said. He died of a gunshot wound to his torso, according to the state medical examiner's office.
Molnar declined to identify the officer who fired the shot but said he was a member of the Virginia State Police tactical team. The officers forced their way inside after no one answered the door, Molnar said.
The police account of Tuesday's events conflict with a statement issued earlier yesterday by Hicks' attorney, who said Hicks was armed but did not brandish, point or fire his gun as the officers entered. A close family friend who has talked to Hicks' wife said yesterday that Hicks grabbed his shotgun because he believed someone was trying to break into his house.
The friend, who was afraid to be identified, said Hicks complied with police demands and lowered his weapon.
Defense attorney John Rockecharlie, who was representing Hicks on a felony drug charge in Chesterfield County, said yesterday that federal agents didn't find any contraband during a search of his home after the shooting. A police source disputed that but did not provide details.
Rockecharlie said he has been in contact with Hicks' family, including his wife, who was inside the house when her husband was shot.
"His family and friends are devastated," Rockecharlie said in a prepared statement. "They are at a loss to understand why the police handled the situation in such a manner. James did not fire, point or brandish a firearm at any officer.
"In the chaos that was created by the police smashing down the door to his home, James was taken from his loved ones," the attorney added. "We hope the authorities look closely at the actions of the police officers."
Rockecharlie said he didn't know whether Tuesday's raid by state police and agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had anything to do with Hicks' arrest in July on drug and gun charges in Chesterfield.
A felony charge of possession of methamphetamine was certified against Hicks last month to a Chesterfield Circuit Court grand jury.
According to court documents and Rockecharlie, Hicks was arrested July 11 after a state trooper stopped him on Interstate 95 near the state Route 10 exit in Chesterfield.
Hicks was riding his 1999 Harley-Davidson motorcycle and wearing Pagans paraphernalia, including a jacket with the club's emblem on the back. He was stopped for wearing a nonapproved helmet.
According to court records, Hicks cooperated with the trooper who stopped him and told the officer "everything he had on him."
That included a .357-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol in his motorcycle saddle bag, along with 0.068 grams of powdered methamphetamine, 3.8 grams of marijuana and four tabs of a pharmaceutical drug that Rockecharlie said he had a prescription for. Those pills contained hydrocodone and dihydrocodeine, according to a state laboratory report.
At a court hearing Sept. 18, Hicks was convicted of a reduced count of possession of drug paraphernalia for the marijuana offense; prosecutors withdrew a concealed-weapon charge. A grand jury was to have considered an indictment on a felony drug charge in November.
Brian Swann, resident agent in charge of the ATF's Richmond office, did not respond yesterday to questions about the raid and whether it was related to a larger federal operation that involved the arrests Tuesday of dozens of Pagans motorcycle members in several mid-Atlantic states on racketeering, firearms and extortion charges.
Court records list Hicks' occupation as a mechanic/welder. A company spokeswoman for Truck Service of Virginia in Disputanta confirmed Hicks' employment there and described him as a reliable, hard-working employee.
"He could have been a rough person because of his physical stature, but he did not throw it around at all," said Wayne Godfrey, Hicks' former boss at Diversified Manufacturing in Hopewell. "We always called him a teddy-bear type."