Scott County Deputy Jaime Morales knew immediately he was struck by friendly fire during a showdown Sept. 11 with a suspected bank robber, according to a report released this week by the Kentucky State Police.
“I knew as soon as I fell to the ground,” Morales said to investigators on Sept. 14, just days after the incident that left him paralyzed. “I was like somebody shot me and it wasn’t even this guy (the suspect), like somebody on my team just shot me, like I knew as soon as I fell to the ground because (the suspect) was already immobilized.”
Morales’ interview was included in a voluminous report of more than 1,000 pages released by the KSP including interviews, diagrams, autopsy reports, court documents and photographs on confrontation between Scott County law enforcement and Edward J. Reynolds, a suspected serial bank robber at the Exit 127 northbound rest area late Sept. 11. Reynolds was killed and Morales was wounded and paralyzed during the incident. The investigation shows Reynolds was armed with a handgun, but never fired his weapon. The News-Graphic obtained the KSP report through an Open Records request.
KSP investigators originally interviewed Morales at the University of Kentucky Medical Center where he was being treated for a gunshot wound.
Morales was among seven members of the Scott County Special Response Team (SRT), a collaboration between the Georgetown Police Department and the Scott County Sheriff’s Office, that was alerted when U.S. Marshals tracked Reynolds to the rest area. The SRT team drove an armored truck and stopped immediately behind Reynolds’ silver Mustang. Five members of the team surrounded the car and ordered Reynolds to exit. Reynolds was seen grabbing a handgun and shots were fired, mortally wounding the suspect. Morales was also shot during the exchange.
“So me and Jacobs are — have our (Armalite rifles) pointing at the guy who was sitting here, the suspect,” Morales said using a diagram. “He — like I said, he, we told him that, you know, ‘Open the door, open the door,’ he wouldn’t do it.
“Then he grabbed his car keys and went to start the car. So, at that time I pulled my (baton) with my left hand, as I was holding the rifle with my right and I struck the window twice.”
The window shattered on the second hit, and Morales said he tossed the baton to the side.
“Then I begin to move this way with (Scott County Deputy Joseph) Jacobs to get a better angle and when the guy closed the door, I’d get more of an angle too,” Morales said. “Anyway so, we moved up, me and Jacobs moved up a little bit. We’re telling him, you know, ‘Don’t start the car, don’t start the car.’
“Then he digs in the center of the console, pulls out a gun, and I think I saw him load it and rack it. So, that’s when we engage him.
“Jacobs engaged with like three or four rounds, I did the same. Then after that person was neutralized, because I waited a second, then I stepped in just a bit, just so I could see like anything else could be a threat. At that time, that’s when I heard the last pop, and that was the pop that brought me down.”
Morales said he was near the Mustang’s door when he leaned forward.
“We engaged the subject,” Morales continued. “ Then I actually moved forward a bit to look if there was any more threat and that’s when I felt the rounds go off.”
In the investigative report, three possible scenarios of how Morales could have been shot were given. One possibility given in the report is that Morales stepped right and diagonally to check on Reynolds before getting shot. The second possibility is the officer who shot Morales was moving as he fired his last shot, striking Morales. The third possibility is Morales and the officer firing were each moving at the time Morales was shot.
In later testimony, Morales said there was a break of a couple of “two-to-three seconds” between the volley of gunfire into the Mustang and the shot that wounded him. In their interviews Lt. James Wagoner, Officer Michael Evans and Sgt. Jeremy Nettles each said in individual interviews the gunfire volley was continuous.
“There wasn’t any straggler shots,” Wagoner said. Once the gunfire stopped, it stopped, he said.
Mike Scogin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.