A man who died after being shot 12 times by deputies had a 0.14 blood alcohol content and meth in his system, according to Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh.
Darragh wrote a letter to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in late January detailing how deputies were justified in using lethal force in the incident in June 2018 off Ridgeway Drive east of McEver Road. The Times requested this letter from the GBI in February and received it Wednesday, March 6.
Darragh reviewed the GBI’s investigative file as well as a dash cam video.
In his letter, Darragh said deputies were investigating reports of a shooting and taxi robbery in the area June 13.
A neighbor, Jose Chaves, told The Times in June that he heard shots that night.
“I heard something,” Chaves said. “Maybe around 10 or 10:30 at night, somebody shot a big gun over there. I heard maybe three or four times.”
Early the next morning, a 911 caller said they saw a man walking around Ridgeway Drive with a handgun.
Three officers responded, with Deputy Nathan Manley driving to the front of the mobile home park.
Manley encountered the suspect, later identified as Joseph Villanueva, 29.
“The subject smiled at Manley, reached into his waistband and pulled out a firearm. As Manley moved toward the subject, Villanueva fled on foot in the direction of Hall County Deputy Kevin Lyle,” according to the letter.
Villanueva pointed the gun at Lyle and “apparently fired at least one round,” according to Darragh’s letter.
“Deputy Lyle fired multiple rounds at Villanueva as Villanueva ran toward him. Villanueva passed Lyle, but then turned, ran toward Lyle again with gun drawn and pointed at Lyle. Lyle continued to fire until the threat to him was stopped,” according to Darragh’s letter.
Deputy Michael Atkins, Manley and Lyle all fired their weapons.
Lyle and Atkins have three and five years of service, respectively, while Manley has served for 20 years.
“The deputies involved in ... (the) incident ranged all the way from seasoned veteran to new patrolman. While the loss of life — even that of an openly aggressive, armed attacker who was already wanted for committing serious crimes — is never something that we seek out or in which we take pleasure, I’m proud to say that not only did our deputies prevail, but they did so without being harmed and without any harm coming to innocent parties,” Sheriff Gerald Couch said in a statement released June 15.
Darragh wrote it appeared Villanueva’s gun jammed as he was running toward Lyle.
“In the situation presented, Deputy Lyle had no choice but to protect his life and limb, and Deputies Manley and Atkins fired appropriately in their efforts to assist Deputy Lyle in the light of Villanueva’s threat to Deputy Lyle,” Darragh wrote.
An autopsy later revealed Villanueva had “methamphetamine in his system and a blood alcohol level of 0.14.”