Portsia Smith covers Louisa County crime and news.
Deputies cleared in shooting of gunman
BY PORTSIA SMITH
Two Louisa County sheriff’s deputies have been officially cleared of any wrongdoing in an August incident in which they shot and killed a man who had fired shots at his own family, killing his stepson and nephew.
Louisa Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Garrett said today that both deputies were justified and acted legally when they shot Charles “Zeke” Sponaugle Sr. on Aug. 22 outside of his home on Twigg Drive in rural Louisa County.
Sponaugle, 52, shot six family members–killing two–and fired at the deputies before being killed during a shootout with the deputies.
A pitbull terrier was also killed after Sponaugle ordered it to attack the deputies and a police dog.
The deputies and the police dog were uninjured.
“After reviewing the dash camera videos and other evidence, I cannot imagine a scenario where an officer involved shooting could have been more justified,” Garrett said. “Make no mistake, the actions of these two deputies that day saved lives. I publicly commend them for their actions”
Louisa Sheriff Ashland Fortune said a family dispute over the land is what led to the bloody violence.
Sheriff’s deputies had been called to the property nearly two-dozen times since 2001—including once earlier that same day in August, Fortune said.
Deputies had been called out to the property around 2 p.m. on Aug. 22, and an argument was resolved. But they were called again around 4:45 p.m. after Sponaugle opened fire with a .22-caliber semiautomatic target pistol, said Corinne Geller, a Virginia State Police spokeswoman.
Sponaugle shot and killed his stepson, Charles P. Steadman Jr., 29, and nephew Mark A. Cooper Jr., 23. Also shot were Sponaugle’s sister, Kitty L. Cooper; brother-in-law Mark A. Cooper Sr.; and nephews Gerald A. Steadman Jr. and Jason C. Steadman.
Geller said there were multiple residences on the property, and that Sponaugle lived with his stepson at the home where the shootings took place.
Court documents show that the property was assessed at $52,100. Sponaugle’s mother, Clara, deeded it to him and five others, including Kitty Cooper, in July 2002.
“We’re hoping that whatever the issue was at Twigg Drive have been cleared up,” said Maj. Donald Lowe of the sheriff’s office. “The family is still hurting, but they are recovering in their own way.”
The two deputies involved were on paid administrative leave during part of the investigation, which is standard procedure, Lowe said.
“Now, the officers are back to work,” he said.
Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419