Commonwealth’s Attorney Joel Branscom will not prosecute a 20-year-old man involved in the death of Donald Ray Moran during a fight at a Fincastle convenience store last fall.
Branscom announced his decision last week after receiving the autopsy report from the Medical Examiner’s Office in Roanoke in December.
“The evidence available to the Commonwealth indicated the 20-year-old was without fault in provoking the fight,” Brascom said in a news release.
Brascom would not name the 20-year-old because he is not being charged.
On September 15, 2016 at about 5:50 p.m., sheriff’s deputies were called to Happy Food Mart on US 220 on the south end of Fincastle for a fight in progress.
When deputies arrived, the found Moran lifeless on the ground near the fuel pumps, the sheriff’s office reported last fall.
Deputies administered CPR but were unable to resuscitate Moran. He was transported to Roanoke Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Moran had gotten into a fight with the 20-year-old, who remained at the scene and cooperated with the investigation, Branscom reported.
He had lacerations on his left eye and his forehead above the hairline.
Investigators interviewed the 20-year-old man and several independent witnesses, took photos, recovered a gun and retrieved surveillance video from the store.
Based on the surveillance video from the store, as well as the accounts of the witnesses, Branscom said Moran initiated the confrontation, first verbally, then physically.
The 20-year-old reacted physically only when struck by Moran, Branscom said.
“As the two fought, Mr. Moran removed a Smith and Wesson, semi-automatic 9mm pistol from a holster on his waist,” the news release from Bransom said. “Moran struck the 20-year-old in the head with the pistol.”
As the struggle continued on the ground, the 20-year-old got an arm bar hold on Moran’s neck and Moran dropped the gun but continued to struggle. “The 20-year-old held Mr. Moran by his neck until he stopped struggling,” Branscom said. “When asked why he continued to hold Mr. Moran in the chokehold, he told the responding officer, ‘I did not want to die or for him to get his gun.’
“Under Virginia law, if he reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of death or injury, he can use force reasonably necessary to protect himself. I cannot say that his actions were unreasonable when faced with an unprovoked attack that included the introduction of a deadly weapon. Accordingly, no charges will be filed,” Branscom said.