Prosecutor: Middletown officers used reasonable deadly force in shooting at Walmart

Two Middletown Division of Police officers involved in the February fatal shooting in parking lot of Walmart at the Towne Mall will not face criminal charges.

Warren County Prosecutor David P. Fornshell said Friday his office has concluded its investigation into the officer-involved critical incident that occurred Feb. 25 and resulted in the death of 47-year-old Victor Lee Lykins.

“After careful review of all the facts and evidence, I have concluded that the application of the use of deadly force by Middletown Division of Police Officer Jonathan Hilgendorf and the use of force by Middletown Division of Police Officer Austin Renner was objectively reasonable under the circumstances,” Fornshell said.

The prosecutor said the case will not be presented to a Warren County grand jury “and this investigation will be considered closed.”

Hilgendorf and Renner, both hired to the force in 2021, will return to work Sunday, according to Middletown Police Chief David Birk. Per departmental policy, they have been on paid administrative leave since the day of the incident.

At about 5:30 p.m., Hilgendorf initiated a traffic stop for an improper turn on a 2008 Jeep Commander. The vehicle pulled into the Walmart parking lot on Towne Boulevard.

Lykins, the passenger who was the brother of the driver, provided false identifying information Hilgendorf, according to the prosecutor’s office. After the driver was removed from the vehicle, he provided the correct identifying information for Lykins, who had an active warrant for his arrest.

During this time, Renner arrived on scene and was speaking with Lykins. When Renner requested Lykins to exit the vehicle, Lykins refused, and displayed a revolver, according to the investigation.

A struggle ensued as Renner attempted to gain control of the revolver. At that time, indicating that he feared for his partner’s safety, Hilgendorf fired two rounds into the vehicle, striking Lykins in the head and back. Lykins was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Bureau of Criminal Investigation located Lykins’ Burgo 22 LR double action revolver on the ground next to his body. The revolver contained eighth rounds.

According to the prosecutor’s office, during an interview with BCI, the driver reported at the time of the traffic stop, Lykins told him he would not go back to jail and that he would kill himself first. The driver said Lykins then grabbed the revolver from the back seat of the vehicle and placed the revolver between his legs before Renner re-approached the vehicle. The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, who conducted the autopsy, concluded that Lykins’ death was caused by multiple gunshot wounds.

“The whole thing is a tragedy,” Fornshell said.

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