BRISTOL, Va. — An intense standoff at a Rocky Hill Road residence in Washington County ended Tuesday afternoon with a man’s death from gunshot wounds.

Dennis D. Morrell, 55, died Tuesday evening from injuries sustained during the standoff, said Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

Sheriff Fred Newman said the four-hour standoff began when two deputies responded to a home on Rocky Hill Road after family members requested a welfare check on the residents.

The officers arrived around 1:45 p.m. at the one-story brick residence on a rural road off Wallace Pike. Newman could not recall any previous calls at the residence.

“The individual was in the house with his wife and son,” Newman said.

The sheriff said Morrell, who he believed to have no criminal record, was reluctant to negotiate with deputies and Virginia State Police, but eventually allowed his family to leave. His wife and son were safely escorted to a nearby residence.

Numerous VSP troopers and WCSO deputies arrived on scene and attempted to negotiate.

The Bristol Virginia Police Department brought an armored personnel carrier vehicle. Most of the officers on scene stood at bay, armed with weapons, bulletproof vests and shields.

Geller said a trained VSP negotiator also responded to the scene.

By 4 p.m., Newman said minimal communication had taken place. A strong thunderstorm swept through the area, but torrential rainfall did not deter officers.

Morrell peered through the windows and front door on a few occasions. At least one time, Newman said, the man asked officers to leave the property.

“Obviously, we can’t do that,” Newman said.

The scene intensified after 5:30 p.m., when officers decided to deploy tear gas. Loud popping noises could be heard from across the street.

Morrell then exited the residence through a basement door.

“He was armed at the time he exited the house,” Newman said.

Geller said Morrell threatened law enforcement with the weapon.

A brief blast of gunshots could then be heard. Newman said he believed Morrell was shot in the arm and side.

No deputies or troopers were injured, Geller said.

Paramedics, who were on standby, rushed to the residence, placed him into an ambulance and took him to Bristol Regional Medical Center. Family members, who waited across the street, heard the gunshots, and became visibly and vocally upset.

An officer told the family the man was still alive and they drove to the hospital.

Newman said Morrell later died during surgery.

The VSP’s Police Shooting Investigative Team out of Wytheville, Va. took over the investigation. | 276-645-2531 | Twitter: @RSorrellBHC |

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