An armed female bystander fatally shot a man in Charleston, West Virginia, after he allegedly opened fire into a crowd of people with a semi-automatic rifle, authorities said.
The Charleston Police Department said in a news release that 37-year-old Dennis Butler was found deceased late on Wednesday near an apartment complex with multiple gunshot wounds.
A crowd of partygoers had gathered for a birthday/graduation celebration that evening when Butler, who has an extensive criminal history, began shooting at the group at the Vista View Apartments on Renaissance Circle.
The woman, who has not been identified, was also attending the party and likely “saved several lives,” Tony Hazelett, a Charleston police spokesman, told a news conference on Thursday.
“Instead of running from the threat, she engaged with the threat and saved several lives last night,” Hazelett said.
No injuries were reported from those attending the party.
Tyke Hunt, Charleston’s police chief, told radio network MetroNews that Butler is a “multi-convicted felon” and had been in prison “a few times.” The police chief added that he personally had a run-in with him in the past.
“As a young police officer, I was a rookie and had about a year on, one of the most knocked-down dragged out fights I had was with Mr. Butler and he had a firearm on him at that time in 2006,” Hunt said during the station’s “Talkline” on Thursday.
Hunt explained that Butler was at the apartment complex earlier that evening in his vehicle, where he was allegedly told to slow down as he sped through an area where children were playing.
The chief said Butler left after the warning, but returned shortly afterward, parked in front of the housing complex, and opened fire. He was armed with an AR-15-style rifle that he shouldn’t be allowed to own due to his criminal record.
“He returned with a rifle … and fired in the direction of the crowd,” Hunt said, adding that it is unclear if there was intent of where to shoot.
“We are still investigating the direction of the firearm and where the rounds went, all the trajectory, and pulling video from that,” he said.
Hazelett said the woman who fired back did not have any law enforcement background and no charges would be filed against her.
“She’s just a member of the community who was carrying her weapon lawfully,” said Hazelett, adding that after the shooting incident, she remained at the scene and has fully cooperated with investigators.