HANCOCK COUNTY – A woman who shot and killed her husband last week prevented a mass casualty situation, according to prosecutors.
Hancock County Prosecutor Michael Griffin released a report on the shooting that killed 57-year-old Gary Roberts. His wife, 56-year-old Elizabeth Roberts, admitted she fatally shot her husband on Friday, Sept. 27. On Thursday, Griffin announced he would not seek criminal charges against Elizabeth Roberts.
In a report released Friday, Griffin said Elizabeth Roberts stopped a mass casualty situation “at the sacrifice of her husband” and “at the risk of her own personal safety.”
“It is easy now to question whether she did the right thing…based on throrough investigation…she did,” Griffin wrote.
On the morning of the shooting, Elizabeth Roberts approached the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department to report erratic and potentially dangerous behavior from her husband. According to her, he’d recently engaged in drinking binges, abused prescription drugs and said he wanted to kill himself. He’d also been in multiple car accidents, engaged in aggressive behavior that he could not recall and threatened gun violence at a pharmacy when his prescription wasn’t ready. On Sept. 19, he was charged with resisting law enforcement and disorderly conduct—the first time in his life he’d ever faced criminal charges.
As Gary Roberts deteriorated, his wife sought out help. Help did not arrive immediately, and as time passed last Friday, she told her husband that she had approached law enforcement.
Gary Roberts told his wife that he would “kill as many law enforcement officers as he could.” He made the same claim to a friend during a telephone conversation that day. He then went into his basement and began arming himself and loading ammunition.
His gun collection was large, Griffin wrote in the report, with an ATF agent estimating the value of the “arsenal” at more than $1 million. Gary Roberts held a special firearms license permitting him to own fully-automatic weapons, and he did indeed have a number of them. As a gun collector, he owned .50 caliber fully-automatic machine guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles and numerous shotguns and handguns.
“To say that Gary was well-armed would be an understatement,” Griffin wrote. “Gary was also highly experienced and very proficient in the use of the firearms in his collection.”
Griffin wrote that Elizabeth Roberts had every reason to believe an armed confrontation between her husband and law enforcement officers was imminent. She knew about the extent of his collection and his proficiency with firearms. She tried to talk him out of it. When that didn’t work, she said she’d shoot him if he didn’t stop loading his guns.
“Gary was defiant, taking a .38 caliber revolver from Elizabeth’s hands, examining its cylinder to confirm that it was loaded” and telling her the gun should “do the job,” Griffin wrote. He cocked the firearm and handed it back to his wife, who again pleaded with him to stop. With time running out to stop a shootout between Gary Roberts and police, Elizabeth Roberts shot her husband.
“Merely wounding Gary was not an option,” Griffin wrote. “Shooting to wound would easily turn Gary’s attention to Elizabeth, with the most likely result being Gary killing Elizabeth and, in that stroke, eliminating the last chance to stop an armed confrontation.”
Griffin concluded that Elizabeth Roberts had no other alternative.
“Gary could not ultimately win an armed confrontation with law enforcement, so his ultimate death in a shootout with law enforcement was a foregone conclusion. Gary’s decision to engage in that confrontation was Gary’s decision to die. But Elizabeth wanted to save lives, so if saving lives meant shooting the man she loved…she was prepared to do it.”
Elizabeth Roberts fired one shot, striking her husband in the chest and mortally wounding him.
Griffin said Elizabeth Roberts was justified in using deadly force. He pointed to Indiana’s “defense of others” statute, which has been on the books since 1976. Griffin said Elizabeth Roberts fulfilled every part of the statute and could not be held criminally liable for her husband’s death.
“The decision not to charge Elizabeth is not an injustice to Gary. Instead, it treats both Gary and Elizabeth justly and follows law that has existed in Indiana since 1976,” Griffin wrote.
“Everyone, including Elizabeth, wishes that Gary Roberts were not dead. All of us should be glad that no one else died that day. The incidents of September 27, 2013 will undoubtedly haunt Elizabeth Roberts all the rest of her days. The criminal law justifies Elizabeth and has no business judging her,” Griffin concluded.