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Geer case has Fairfax supervisors taking another look at attorney
By Tom Jackman and Antonio Olivo February 27
Members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors plan to order their longtime county attorney to answer for what they see as his missteps in the handling of the investigation into the 2013 police shooting of an unarmed man.
Several supervisors said they plan to take up the shooting death of John Geer at their next meeting on Tuesday. They said they may talk about the possibility of reprimands, and possibly even termination, for the county attorney or his top deputies.
“Everything is on the table,” Supervisor Jeff C. McKay (D-Lee) said. “There has to be action, both swift and long-term. There have to be consequences for actions like this. There have to be consequences so people understand who is running this county. It’s not the people who were hired to work for the county. It’s the people who were elected.”
The supervisors said their legal advisers, led by longtime County Attorney David P. Bobzien, failed to keep them apprised of a dispute between police and county prosecutor Raymond F. Morrogh in 2013 as he investigated the shooting, didn’t tell them the county was refusing to provide files to federal prosecutors in 2014, and didn’t tell them that Morrogh wanted to meet with the supervisors to discuss the advice Bobzien’s staff was giving police.
The supervisors said they learned of the developments from a series of e-mails from 2013 and 2014 that were published Friday in The Washington Post. In the e-mails, between Morrogh and deputy county attorneys Karen L. Gibbons and Cynthia Tianti, Morrogh expressed frustration with the county’s decision not to let him see internal affairs files and with what he said was the attorneys’ advice to police internal affairs investigators that they should not interview officers involved in brutality allegations.
The e-mails also show that Morrogh tried unsuccessfully to discuss his concerns with the board chairman, Sharon Bulova (D), and the other supervisors.
“It’s clear we can redraw the organizational chart” of Fairfax government, Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) said Friday, “and put the county attorney at the top. They appear to be making decisions without consulting the board. This is another indication it’s time for change in the county attorney’s office.”
Also Friday, details began to emerge about what the supervisors were and weren’t told about the death of Geer by their attorneys and by Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. and what they have since learned from legal filings and news reports.
Morrogh’s e-mails said the county attorneys instructed the police internal affairs bureau not to interview officers involved in shootings because of the possibility that statements would conflict with ones given in future civil cases. In a statement issued Friday, county spokesman Tony Castrilli said that is not the case. “It is not correct to suggest that [internal affairs] was advised to avoid taking statements from officers,” the statement said.
Supervisor John W. Foust (D-Dranesville) said it would be “highly inappropriate” to give such instructions to officers. “We’ll follow up and get to the bottom of it,” he said.
Foust said he and other board members have felt blindsided by learning new information about investigation of the Geer case through media reports and not Bobzien’s office.
Neither Bobzien nor Tianti, who is overseeing the Geer case, responded to a request for comment.
Although Bobzien, who has been with the county for 20 years, is generally well regarded, several board members said the Geer matter exposed a serious communication gap between his office and the county’s governing body. Bulova said she and other board members are taking steps to bridge that gap, including the creation of a commission to review police policies.
Bulova said “I don’t know” whether anyone in the county attorney’s office should be dismissed. But she and other board members said that if a meeting with Morrogh had occurred, they would likely have chosen to cooperate fully with his office.
Geer, 46, was fatally shot Aug. 29, 2013, as he stood in the doorway of his Springfield townhouse with his hands on top of the screen door, police witnesses said. The police waited 70 minutes to render aid to Geer, who had already shown them a holstered handgun, because they didn’t know whether he would try to fire back at them.
The supervisors received their first briefing on the case on Sept. 10, 2013, in a closed briefing from Roessler, board records show. Herrity said the chief told them there were differing accounts of where Geer’s hands were and that there was a delay in reaching Geer. The board did not receive any details about how many officers contradicted the version of events given by Officer Adam D. Torres, who shot Geer, or about Torres’s prior blowup at a Fairfax prosecutor, though that was well known to top police officials, police documents released last month show.
The board was briefed again in closed session on Nov. 19, 2013, records show. According to Herrity, members were informed that Morrogh was seeking the internal affairs files of Torres in other cases and that the county attorneys were refusing to provide them.
Morrogh’s e-mails show that the county attorneys and Roessler had already refused to turn over the files in a meeting five days earlier, on Nov. 14, 2013.
Herrity said the board is made up mainly of non-lawyers and that when county attorneys provide advice, “absent something compelling to dispute it, the board tends to follow it. But an attorney’s job is to give you the pros and cons and lay out options. Not to make decisions. The board should be the one making the decisions. That clearly didn’t happen.”
Rebuffed again by county attorneys in January, Morrogh sent the case to federal prosecutors in Alexandria. The supervisors learned of that development through the media, Herrity said.
The board received another briefing in April and another on Sept. 9, shortly after Geer’s longtime girlfriend sued Roessler. In the meantime, county attorneys again refused to produce Torres’s internal affairs files for federal prosecutors, the Justice Department revealed in a letter in November. That was the first time the supervisors learned that, Herrity said.
“The board was very upset,” Herrity said, “at the fact that they hadn’t turned the files over to the feds. We weren’t told any of that.”
Also in September, another police shooting occurred, and Morrogh said he wasn’t told of it for hours. Morrogh asked Virginia State Police to take over the new investigation, but they declined, county officials said.
Morrogh then sought a meeting with Bulova and the board to discuss the county attorney’s seemingly new policies on internal affairs files and interviews. But the prosecutor’s request was never passed on to Bulova or the supervisors, Bulova said, and the meeting didn’t happen.
“If a fellow elected official wants to meet with me, we’re meeting. It’s not even a debate,” McKay said.
With no decision made on whether to charge Torres, police had refused to release his name or any details of the case until January, when a Fairfax judge ordered them to do so in the civil suit. On Jan. 30, the county posted 11,000 documents, photos, audio and video files of the case online, which Herrity said was the first time the supervisors learned the details of the shooting.
Herrity said he was willing to listen to Bobzien and his staff defend their work. “I’m still trying to decide whether we got overprotective legal advice or just bad legal advice,” Herrity said.
Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.
Antonio covers government, politics and other regional issues in Fairfax County. He worked in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago before joining the Post in September of 2013.
Geer case emails show tension between Fairfax leaders
FAIRFAX, Va. (WUSA9) -- An exchange of emails regarding the fatal police shooting of John Geer in 2013 shows tension between Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh and other county leaders.
Morrogh recenty received the internal affairs reports that the police department had previously refused to provide to him about the August 29th, 2014 shooting. He also sent the case to the Justice Department after he was unable to continue his own investigation. Letters from Senator Charles Grassley, chair of the judiciary committee, forced the latest release of the IA report to the commonwealth's attorney. Murrow has the files he needs now and he is evaluating the case again.
Morrogh handed all of the files over to Fauquier Commonwealth's Attorney to take out statements made by Officer Adam Torres, who shot Geer, because officers interviewed by Internal Affairs cannot have those statements used against them in court.
WUSA obtained a December to January email exchange between Morrogh and Senior Assistant County Attorney Karen Gibbons that shows the tension between officials regarding obtaining the files.
Read the emails below:
From: Morrogh, Ray F.
Sent: Wednesday, December 04, 2013 3:38 PM
To: Gibbons, Karen L.
Subject: Officer Involved Shooting of John R. Geer
Ms. Karen Gibbons,
Deputy County Attorney
I write at the suggestion of the Virginia State Bar to seek clarification with respect to the scope of the County Attorney's representation of the Chief of Police with respect to the investigation of the officer involved shooting of Mr. John R. Geer. Is the County Attorney's Office representing the Chief only with respect to the issue of turning over the internal affairs files to my office or does the County Attorney's Office purport to represent the Chief generally in regard to all aspects of the investigation of the subject police officer?
The purpose of this query is so that I may remain in compliance with the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct, specifically, Rule 4.2 concerning communication with persons represented by counsel. At this point I have been advised that I may not communicate with the Chief of Police any further with regard to the subject of the internal affairs files. Do you represent the Detectives who have been assigned to investigate this officer involved shooting and if so do you only represent them on the internal affairs file or do you purport to represent them generally with respect to all aspects of the investigation ?
When we met on November 14, 2013 it was the Chief's position, as stated by his counsel, that he would not turn over the Internal Affairs files to this office without a subpoena. You indicated as his counsel that your office would probably file a motion to quash any such subpoena if one were obtained by this office in the course of this investigation. Is this still the case? Again I formally request that your client turn over the Internal Affairs files to this office so that we may direct them to a "taint team" and fulfill our duty in this case. Thank you for your attention to this email.
Raymond F. Morrogh
From: Gibbons, Karen L.
Sent: Monday, January 06, 2014 1:43 PM
To: Morrogh, Ray F.
Subject: RE: Officer Involved Shooting of John R. Geer
The County Attorney represents all County agencies, including the Police Department and its Chief of Police, in regard to civil matters only. As the internal investigations are non-criminal in nature and conducted for the purpose of determining whether an officer's conduct, actions, or performance was in compliance with Police Department general orders or policies, the County Attorney represents the Police Department and Chief Roessler in regard to internal investigations. Because internal investigations are confidential under Virginia law, see e.g., Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3706(A)(2)(i), Chief Roessler will not voluntarily provide you with the prior internal affairs files regarding the officer who shot and killed Mr. Geer. As you know, because an officer is compelled to answer questions during an internal investigation, it has always been the practice of the Police Department that no internal investigation into this or any other officer-involved shooting will be conducted until the conclusion of the ongoing criminal investigation. This practice ensures that the criminal investigation is not tainted by any compelled statements made by the involved-officer(s) during the internal investigation.
In regard to the criminal investigation into this officer-involved shooting, the County Attorney does not regularly provide legal advice or counsel to the Criminal Investigations Bureau (CIB) detective(s) who have been assigned to investigate the shooting because it is a criminal matter. It has always been my understanding that you lead the criminal investigation and provide whatever legal advice as necessary. The criminal investigation into the officer-involved shooting of Mr. Geer has always been, and continues to be, under your direction and legal advice. If this is not your understanding of our separate roles, please let me know.
Of course, it is the Police Department's intention to cooperate in your investigation to the extent provided by law. As you know, the Police Department's position regarding your request for any prior internal investigations of the officer involved in the shooting of Mr. Geer is based, at least in part, on the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit's case of In re Grand Jury, John Doe No. G.J.2005-2 v. United States, 478 F.3d 581 (4th Cir. 2007). In that case, the Fourth Circuit found that a Police Department's interest in keeping its internal affairs investigations confidential was a significant one and upheld a district court's quashing of a grand jury subpoena duces tecum. I believe I provided you with a copy of that case at our meeting on November 14, 2013. It is simply the Police Department's position that if you require such prior internal investigations, you issue a subpoena for those files, at which point there will be a legal vehicle to put this matter before a judge who can then decide whether such files should be produced. Absent such a legal ruling, it is the Police Department's position that it does not have the right to turn over any such internal investigative files to you.
Karen L. Gibbons
Senior Assistant County Attorney
From: Morrogh, Ray F.
Sent: Thursday, January 16, 2014 1:12 PM
To: Gibbons, Karen L.
Cc: Lingan, Casey; McClain, Robert D.
Subject: RE: Officer Involved Shooting of John R. Geer
Thanks for the follow up on this issue. In light of the Police Department's position, and the concerns I expressed at our meeting, I have requested federal law enforcement assistance in this case.
Fairfax prosecutor asked state police to investigate Fairfax police shooting
By Tom Jackman
Fairfax County’s chief prosecutor called for the Virginia State Police to investigate a Fairfax police shooting outside a church in September because he had lost confidence in the county police department’s ability to cooperate fully with him, newly released e-mails show.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh took the extraordinary step of requesting an outside agency after he had been stonewalled by Fairfax police in the August 2013 police shooting of John B. Geer in Springfield, the e-mails indicate. Morrogh had sought the internal affairs records¬ of the officer involved in the Geer case, but Chief Edwin C. Roessler, on the advice of the county attorney, refused to turn over the files, the e-mails show.
Morrogh also was disturbed that the Fairfax county attorney had advised the police internal affairs bureau “to avoid taking statements from officers accused of employing excessive force,” to eliminate the possibility of an inconsistent statement being used “later in civil proceedings,” according to the e-mails, released by Morrogh.
The e-mails underscore the rare dissension and tension within the Fairfax County government that have been a part of the Geer case. Geer was unarmed and witnesses say had his hands up when he was killed by Officer Adam D. Torres. Fairfax officials had been silent for more than a year about what happened and did not release details until ordered to by a judge in a civil case filed by Geer’s family.
Morrogh turned the investigation into the shooting over to the U.S. Justice Department because of the county’s obstruction, he has said. The newly released e-mails show that the tension was sharper than previously known.
Morrogh tried to set up a meeting with County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) to let her know about the advice to the internal affairs bureau from County Attorney David P. Bobzien and his top deputies, Karen L. Gibbons and Cynthia L. Tianti. But Bulova never was informed of Morrogh’s request, and the meeting never happened, the chairman said.
Morrogh also expressed interest in speaking to the full County Board of Supervisors about the difficulties he was having investigating police cases¬, the e-mails show. But Tianti advised him that he could only do so at a public meeting, perhaps during the “Public Comments” portion of a board meeting, where he would be limited to five minutes.
Bulova said she has since “told Bobzien that the Board should have known of his request.”
Eventually, Morrogh said the police internal affairs commander, Maj. Michael Kline, refused to heed the county attorney’s advice, and the county attorney and police agreed to allow the prosecutor to review internal affairs files, starting with the September church shooting. The state police declined to get involved in the investigation, a county spokesman said.
Fairfax spokesman Tony Castrilli said in a statement that internal police investigations of excessive force “always include interviews of the subject officers,” but he declined to say whether county attorneys ever advised police to stop such interviews. He said Morrogh and the county attorneys met Sept. 15 and “developed a protocol for handling requests” for internal affairs files “that satisfied both sides’ legal obligations.”
But the county attorneys continued to resist turning over internal affairs files in the Geer case. An e-mail written by Gibbons in January 2014 explained the county’s reasoning: that “internal investigations are confidential” under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act.
The state law allows law enforcement agencies to withhold “administrative investigations relating to allegations of wrongdoing by employees of a law-enforcement agency.” But it also states that such records “may be disclosed by the custodian, in his discretion.”
Gibbons wrote: “Chief Roessler will not voluntarily provide you with the internal affairs files regarding the officer who shot and killed Mr. Geer.”
At the time, Morrogh was seeking records on other internal affairs cases¬ involving Torres, not on the Geer case, to get a full picture of the officer and his background. “It wouldn’t be fair to the officer,” Morrogh said in a brief interview, “to the decedent, or be true to my investigation to not look at all the evidence before making a decision” on filing charges¬.
After receiving Gibbons’s e-mail in January 2014 and believing that even a state grand jury subpoena could not extract the internal files from the police, Morrogh turned the case over to the U.S. attorney in Alexandria. Federal prosecutors apparently obtained the files, but no decision has been made on whether Torres should be charged with a civil rights violation.
Earlier this month, a Fairfax judge ordered the internal affairs files be provided to the attorneys for Geer’s family, who sued Roessler in September. The files were then given to Morrogh last week, and he said prosecutors were screening them.
Morrogh said in an e-mail to Tianti that he had received internal affairs files before the Geer case, but in light of the new policy denying them, he had summoned the state police to the church shooting. “My concern is that this office can’t investigate a case fully and fairly where the police, or the county attorney, decide what information they will turn over to the prosecution,” Morrogh wrote.
The county attorney’s office did not tell Bulova or the supervisors of Morrogh’s interest in speaking to them. “It’s completely unacceptable,” said Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield).
Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors calling for outside input on improving information disclosure policies.
By Tim Peterson
When Alexandria resident Natasha McKenna was removed from life support and died on Feb. 8, the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office posted a release on the county website. It was an update to an earlier post on Feb. 5 that explained McKenna was an inmate at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center who experienced a “medical emergency” on Feb. 3.
McKenna was scheduled to be moved to the Alexandria Adult Detention Center that day. When she fought against deputies transporting her, they used tasers to restrain her. At that point, the Fairfax County Police Department was notified and an investigation of McKenna’s “in-custody inmate death” began.
February 19, the Police Department released another update, an 800-word description of the events leading up to McKenna’s arrest and death. She had called Fairfax County police herself on Jan. 25 to report being assaulted. Officers accompanied her to a hospital and through a record check discovered an outstanding arrest warrant for assaulting an Alexandria police officer back on Jan. 15.
Though the officers involved have yet to be named, the content and amount of information released in under two weeks since McKenna’s death is comparable to that which it took the county over a year to release following the officer killing of Springfield resident John Geer.
According to Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Sharon Bulova, that was indicative of the board’s commitment to “making a stronger effort than before to make sure that we’re putting out as much info as possible.”
Amid Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, writing letters to the county as to why Geer’s investigation has taken so long and how it’s been handled, as well as public pressure from organizations such as the Justice for John Geer Facebook group and Citizens Coalition for Police Accountability, Bulova previously announced the board would seek outside expertise to examine its policies for releasing information on police action.
AT THE FEB. 17 MEETING of the board, supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) introduced a draft policy for transparency that had been making its way to the Fairfax City Council.
“You don’t have to look far to find a good policy on transparency,” said Herrity. “If this had been enforced, we wouldn’t have had a lof of the problems with the Geer case”.
That Fairfax proposal mandated a release of basic facts, any conflicting information and confirmed identities of individuals involved with the incident -- all within 72 hours of the incident itself.
“There were some good recommendations,” Bulova said, “but I’m not sure that is the only thing that we want to consider. We’re prepared to take a look at a number of models and best practices, to include the one the city of Fairfax is considering.”
#February 20, Bulova took another step and announced the creation of a new commission, made up of citizens, members of the legal community and other organizations such as the NAACP, to review police policies.
#“This gives the community an opportunity to take part in our review,” said Bulova.
#In her release, the Chairman named Michael Hershman, founder of the Fairfax Group and a citizen appointee to the Board of Supervisors Audit Committee, chair of this commission. She plans to bring it before the Board in its March 3 meeting for endorsement. At that time, Bulova has said she will also announce the rest of the commission’s membership.
#Though the commission is a step, Herrity remains critical of the Board’s lack of open discussion on the Geer case and others involving excessive and or lethal force by police officers.
#“The most disturbing thing to me is we haven’t had a Public Safety Committee meeting in well over a year,” he said. “I don’t know why not, there’s not a good answer. And too much of the board’s discussion has been in closed session. We need to get out into open session and have a dialog on our policies and practices and get them fixed.”
#BULOVA’S COMMISSION will have the opportunity to review both the county’s search for “independent expertise” on releasing information on officer-involved incidents and the Police Department’s policies and training regarding use of force.
Fairfax prosecutors ready to pick up Geer case again
FAIRFAX, Va. (WUSA9) -- After a year and half, the Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney is once again evaluating the fatal police shooting of John Geer, a man who was standing unarmed, with his hands up.
It happened on August 29th, 2013. Now, County Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh has finally received the internal affairs reports that the police department had previously refused to provide.
RELATED:Family reacts to release of materials on Geer case
Morrogh sent the case to the Justice Department after he was unable to continue his own investigation. Now that he has all the files he needs, Morrogh is evaluating the Geer case once again.
"If this particular incident does not warrant the convening of a grand jury.... then no case in Fairfax County ever will," said Jeff Stewart, a witness the fatal shooting of his friend.
Stewart blames county supervisors for not stepping in to force the police department to cooperate with the Commonwealth's Attorney.
Morrogh told the Washington Post Saturday, that "protecting the county coffers" in anticipation of a civil lawsuit, "can't be a factor in a criminal investigation." But Morrogh declined to say that was the problem. "I don't know why they didn't want the documents released," said Morrogh.
"We were not aware," County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova answered when asked if they knew Morrogh could not get documents he needed from the police department.
"I would be extremely disappointed if I were to find there was an interference because we were trying to prevent the county from having to respond to a lawsuit," Bulova stated.
It took letters from Senator Charles Grassley, chair of the judiciary committee, to force the latest release of the IA report to the commonwealth's attorney.
Though the Internal Affairs report has been made available to Ray Morrogh, he's handed all of the files over to Fauquier Commonwealth's Attorney to take out statements made by Officer Adam Torres. When officers are interviewed by Internal Affairs, their statements cannot be used against them court.
Sharon Bulova will request that Supervisors create a new commission to review police department policies in order to ensure better transparency and communication in the event of another major incident.
Fairfax County Board to announce new commission to review police practices after John Geer fatal shooting
By The Associated Press, Jeannette Reyes
March 3, 2015 - 06:33
FAIRFAX, Va. (AP/WJLA) - Nearly two years after a police officer shot an unarmed man outside of his home, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will introduce Tuesday a new commission to review police practices.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova initially announced the creation of the new commission in February. The 25-member panel will include law enforcement personnel, citizens from local neighborhoods and scholars.
The police review comes after the county was criticized for withholding investigative documents for 17 months related to the 2013 shooting of an unarmed man, John Greer, by a police officer.
Bulova says the commission was created to maintain public trust and is part of an effort by county officials to take a "hard look" at how police inform the public about major incidents.
The commission will recommend changes to Fairfax policies to improve transparency around police-involved incidents.
Time to Get Serious About Police Reform and Oversight
The View From Over Here, a Letter to the Editor, submitted by Patch reader John Lovaas
By Mary Ann Barton (Patch Staff) March 2, 2015 at 3:21pm
Finally the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has taken the first step toward reining in the Fairfax County Police Department, a heavily armed force which in matters of life and death has been accountable to no one but themselves. In the 75 years since the Board created its Police Department, not one officer has been charged with wrongdoing in killing an unarmed civilian.
But, there have been many killings of unarmed civilians, including ones under questionable circumstances—a half dozen of the latter in the last 10 years alone. (To see a rare, and creative, report on such a killing, google “Killing of Salvatore Culosi—Report to the Community by [then] Police Chief David Rohrer”.)
But, it has taken the public uproar over the shooting death of unarmed John Geer by an officer in front of several witnesses (including civilians this time) and seventeen months of FCPD stonewalling the public, the Commonwealth Attorney, and the Department of Justice to sufficiently embarrass Chairman Sharon Bulova and nine District Supervisors into their first tentative action.
Before you conclude that Mr. Geer did not die in vain, however, we should watch closely and verify that the historically non-supervising Supervisors in fact effect genuine reform, ending the impunity FC Police have so long enjoyed. Thus far, the Board’s action consists only of an announcement of INTENT to form an Ad Hoc Commission to study FCPD operations as manifest in the Geer case.
Chairman Bulova and the Supervisors have yet to reveal the scope of work for the consultant charged with forming and, presumably, heading the Ad Hoc Commission.
After all, it is this body that ultimately will recommend the measures needed to bring transparency and accountability to the FCPD. It would help if Chairman Bulova introduced her consultant to the community, revealed the content of his contract and the Board’s charge to the Commission, and revealed how its members are selected and indeed who they are.
The Supervisors need to understand that their dereliction of police oversight duty has eroded public confidence to the point where it rivals that accorded to the U.S. Congress. The Ad Hoc Commission is potentially key to restoring some of the lost trust.
The Commission should shape not only critically needed reform of the FCPD, but also the civilian oversight function of the Board itself, and indeed the community, which in the future must have an independent oversight role investigating complaints involving police use of force, especially lethal force.
Let’s see if the Supervisors are up to the job, notably in an election year when they often look to the cops for union endorsements, campaign cash, and campaign labor
Stonewalling in Fairfax County, again
By Editorial Board March 1
IT’S BEEN a month since an elite, specially trained team of sheriff’s deputies went to extract Natasha McKenna from her cell at the Fairfax County jail and, when she resisted, shot her repeatedly with a stun gun. Taken to the hospital, Ms. McKenna, 37, who was mentally ill, died a few days later without regaining consciousness.
There are a number of extraordinary aspects to Ms. McKenna’s death, not least that the incident at the jail was recorded. The 45-minute video spans the attempt to remove her from her cell to her departure from the jail in an ambulance.
Two weeks after Ms. McKenna’s death, Sharon Bulova (D), who chairs Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors, asked to see the video. She directed her request to Sheriff Stacey A. Kincaid, whose department runs the jail, and Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr., whose department is investigating Ms. McKenna’s death. So far the request by the county’s top elected official has not been honored, nor has it been denied.
At the same time, neither the sheriff’s office nor the police have released relevant information to the public about Ms. McKenna’s death. For example, a spokesperson for the police department told us in an e-mail that the department cannot say when or if the six deputies involved in the incident at the jail will be identified.
Many law enforcement agencies resort reflexively to stonewalling. The Fairfax police have become notorious for it, having spent 18 months refusing to release information on the 2013 death of John Geer, an unarmed man shot to death by a county police officer in front of fellow officers who saw no reason to pull the trigger. Now it appears the police are at it again.
It may be many weeks before the medical examiner’s office makes public the official cause of Ms. McKenna’s death. In the meantime, it seems highly probable that the incident at the jail, specifically the repeated use of the stun gun to subdue her, played a major part.
Yet there is no sign so far that the sheriff’s office is reexamining its policies or procedures for removing inmates from their cells or even for the use of stun guns. Nor have the deputies involved been put on probation while Ms. McKenna’s death is investigated. If this is the result of an interaction with a female prisoner who was, by her lawyer’s account, just 5 feet 3 inches tall, why should anyone be confident that sheriff’s deputies are competent to extract a bigger and more physically powerful inmate from a cell?
When unarmed people die at the hands of uniformed officers, the public deserves an accounting. That accounting is still lacking in the death of Mr. Geer, and it is now lacking in the case of Ms. McKenna. In both cases, top officials of the relevant law enforcement agencies have promised openness and transparency. In both cases their deeds have contradicted their words
Fairfax County police officer identified in shooting of John Geer
By MyFoxDC.com Web Producer
FAIRFAX, Va. -
Police have identified the police officer who fatally shot a Fairfax County man in the doorway of his home.
Since the shooting, very limited information has been released, if any, from police as to what happened back on August 29, 2013. John Geer's family has asked for answers for the past 17 months, and finally, a Fairfax County judge ordered the police department release details of the deadly shooting.
"I think our policies need to be changed,” said Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Fairfax County.
For nearly 17 months, Geer's family was kept wondering what happened that fateful day in August. One of the most important questions they had was who shot the father of two?
Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler released a statement which names PFC Adam Torres, an 8-year veteran of the department, as the officer who fired the single deadly shot.
Geer's family contends that even though his longtime partner had called police following a domestic dispute, Geer had been calmly speaking with police and had his hands raised throughout.
But the police chief, who was not present at Monday's briefing, alleges that " was reported as having multiple firearms inside the home, displaying a firearm that he threatened to use against the police…”
And it was when "Geer began lowering his hands at one point during the negotiations, PFC Adam Torres fired a single shot that struck Geer.”
It has taken nearly a year and a half for police to put out the information after a judge stepped in last month ordering the officer's name and other pertinent information come out.
The county alleges their hands were tied two-fold: one because the case was bumped up to the federal level, and two, because of a dated county policy.
"We were respecting a policy that says the officer's name is released when there has been a determination whether or not that officer is going to be charged with a criminal crime or not,” said Bulova.
She added, “That process didn't get finished, so the investigation is still underway.”
Now, the Department of Justice has until the end of the month to provide discovery to the family's attorney for the ongoing civil lawsuit against police, which is seeking $12 million in damages.
The family has expressed their further disappointment with the police department. They say they did not offer any sort of courtesy call, but rather learned of Monday's developments through the media.
As for the officer, he has been placed on administrative duty since the shooting pending the outcome of the criminal and administrative investigation.
FOX 5 has previously reported that Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh was stonewalled by the county attorney who refused to hand over certain documents in the case. The county eventually handed the documents over to prosecutors with the Department of Justice after a federal court fight that remains under seal.
This case gained the attention of Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley and he has been pressuring officials in Fairfax County for information in the shooting death of Geer.
Fairfax must come clean on shooting
Richmond Times Dispatch
Fairfax must come clean on shooting
For nearly a year and a half, the Fairfax County police department has stonewalled inquiries about the shooting death of John Geer. Police responded to a disturbance at Geer’s home in Springfield and talked to Geer at some length while he stood, unarmed, on his own porch. Then an officer shot him in the chest.
Who was the officer? What (if anything) provoked the shooting? Fairfax officials flatly refuse to discuss the case.
Now Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows has ordered the police department to hand over its files to the Geer family, which has filed a lawsuit over the matter. That’s a decent start. But the public has a right to expect more from the county than grudging disclosure in the course of litigation.
For county police to kill an unarmed citizen and then refuse to discuss even the slightest details — let alone tender an explanation — for more than a year is outrageous. That sort of thing might happen in banana republics or Middle Eastern autocracies. It cannot happen here. That Chief Edwin Roessler thinks it ought to shows he is the wrong man for that job.
Prosecutor says he was blocked in Fairfax County police shooting probe
FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — Fairfax County's top prosecutor says he was thwarted in his criminal investigation of a fatal shooting by a county police officer by the county's refusal to release records to him.
Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh, in a letter to a U.S. senator made public Tuesday, said county attorneys refused to release internal affairs records of the officer who shot 46-year-old John Geer of Springfield in August 2013.
The Geer shooting has attracted the attention of U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and others because no decision has been made on whether to charge the officer nearly 18 months after the shooting.
Morrogh said the refusal of the county attorney — a separate office — to cooperate forced him to refer the case to federal prosecutors.
Geer's family has filed a civil lawsuit.
Fairfax Co. will comply with order, release fatal shooting evidence
By Megan Cloherty | @ClohertyWTOP
WASHINGTON – Fairfax County will not appeal to a judge’s order to turn over evidence related to the fatal police shooting of a Springfield man more than a year ago.
In August 2013, an unnamed Fairfax County police officer, responding to a 911 call, shot John Geer, who was unarmed, in the doorway of his home after a more than 40-minute standoff.
The case had idled until Monday when Judge Randy Bellows ordered police to turn over evidence related to the shooting, including the name of the officer who shot Geer.
In a short statement from the county, Tony Castrilli with the Fairfax County Public Affairs Department, says the county will comply with Bellows’ order and will not appeal the decision.
Geer’s long-time partner Maura Harrington sued the county in September for $12 million in order to get answers for herself and Geer’s two daughters, she said at the time.
“(The family) can finally see a little light at the end of the tunnel,” says Michael Lieberman, the Geer family’s attorney. “Soon they’ll know why a loved one was lost.”
Based on the order, the police department has 30 days to turn over evidence from the case to the Geer family attorneys.
Hearing on John Geer shooting by cop set for Friday
WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- A hearing regarding the shooting of John Geer, who was unarmed when he was shot and killed in his Fairfax County home, has been scheduled for Friday.
A judge will decide whether or not Fairfax County Police Chief Edward Roessler has the right to not disclose what happened in the shooting.
While there is no criminal investigation into the incident in Fairfax County, the U.S. Attorney's Office is conducting one. The information being withheld by the county police is a critical element of the federal investigation.
It has been 15 months since Geer's death, and his family, community members, and even a U.S. Senator are looking for answers.
"Let's look at Ferguson, let's look at Staten Island, we know a lot about what happened there, in just a short period of time. I think that the police department ought to be embarrassed that they have said nothing in a year and a half," Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) told WUSA9.
A Facebook group has also been started to raise about Geer's death. Mike Curtis is a member of the group and he says he hopes the hearing will lead to answers. "I think it would give us some information. We don't want to draw a ton of conclusions but anything, they've stone-walled completely," Curtis said.
Judge Bellows, of Fairfax County, will hear the case at noon.
John Geer's family wants answers in Springfield shooting
Community outraged over John Geer investigation
Column: Senators Weigh In on Fairfax Police Killing
By John Lovaas/Reston Impact Producer/Host
#We have positive developments in the still unexplained slaying of John Geer by a still unidentified Fairfax County police officer on Aug. 29, 2013. Fairfax Police Chief Ed Roessler refuses to release the shooter’s name or any information. Commonwealth Attorney Ray Morrogh, who is responsible for investigating police criminality but is usually more a mouthpiece for the cops, declined to investigate at all. Citing a mystery conflict of interest, he passed the case to the U.S. Attorney.
#The latter says he is doing an investigation “…to determine whether the shooting involved prosecutable violations of Mr. Geer’s civil rights.” It turns out the police have not been very cooperative with either the Commonwealth Attorney or the U.S. Attorney. The latter had to litigate to get the cops to provide evidence.
Meanwhile the Board of Supervisors, nominal superiors of the County cops, have stood by in craven silence for the 16 months since Mr. Geer was gunned down. John Geer’s family-father, partner, and children-waited patiently for over a year for an explanation. It never came.
They recently sued FCPD for $12 million—payable by the taxpayers. Finally, a Virginia State Senator and a U.S. Senator are speaking up about the inaction by Fairfax authorities, in particular.
State Senator Toddy Puller has recommended to Chairman Bulova that the “…Board of Supervisors create, appoint, and support a Citizens Review Board… to keep the Fairfax County police accountable…”
She notes in her Oct. 24 letter that her constituents have concerns “about the ability of the police to investigate themselves honestly and fairly.”
That is a massive understatement after 72 years have passed with many police killings, but not one single officer even charged in connection with a killing. Now, Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), far from his congressional turf but with a reputation for concern about transparency in government, is sharply questioning Fairfax police behavior and lack of transparency. In response to Senator Grassley’s five written questions, Chief Roessler told him quite bluntly nothing. The Senator was not impressed with Roessler’s response commenting that “No one should be immune from accountability.”
But in Fairfax County, the police remain absolutely unaccountable even as they continue to gun down unarmed citizens. One wonders where is the outrage that we have seen in Ferguson and in New York City where cops recently killed unarmed African Americans and to date remain immune from punishment.
Maybe it is because in Fairfax County, skin color is not determinant. Our police are equal opportunity shooters. The common thread is lack of accountability. How can police accountability be built and citizen trust restored in Fairfax County? Here’s how.
Chairman Bulova and the Board of Supervisors should: 1) promptly sack Chief Roessler; 2) create a Citizens Review Board as recommended by State Senator Puller. The CRB should be empowered to investigate complaints about police use of lethal force and abuse of residents; 3) request that the State Police take over the Geer case, name the shooter, conduct a thorough criminal investigation and make appropriate recommendations to the Commonwealth Attorney; and, 4) issue an apology to the Geer family and the public for what has transpired since John Geer’s death way back in August 2013.
New ‘Justice for John Geer’ group forms, Grassley staff seeks information
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By Tom Jackman December 12
In a photo taken by a neighbor just minutes before the shooting, John B. Geer stands in the doorway of his Springfield townhouse with his hands on the top of his storm door, with two officers aiming their service weapons at him. Soon after, one of the officers fired one shot, and Geer died. Fifteen months later, no ruling has been made on the legality of the shooting. (Courtesy DiMuro Ginsberg)
Troubled by the lack of information that has emerged about the Fairfax County police killing of John Geer in August 2013, a group of citizens has launched a protest movement called “Justice for John Geer.” The group is unrelated to, and has not contacted, Geer’s family or their lawyers, but since it launched late last month claims to already have 100 members and an active Facebook page where discussions are underway about actions the group might take to produce results.
Geer, 46, was standing in the doorway of his Springfield townhouse after a non-violent domestic dispute with his longtime partner. Fairfax officers aimed guns at him and spoke to him for 50 minutes, then one officer fired one shot into his chest. The police then waited an hour before rendering first-aid, by which time Geer was dead. The officer’s name and any explanation of his actions have not been released. The Fairfax commonwealth’s attorney shifted the case to the U.S. attorney in Alexandria in January. The U.S. attorney investigated, apparently using a federal grand jury to hear witnesses and subpoena documents, and then last month referred the case to the Justice Department’s civil rights division for a ruling on criminal charges.
Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has continued to press the matter. Members of his staff met Monday with Don Geer and Jeff Stewart, John Geer’s father and best friend, to tell them they are still interested in the investigation. Stewart said that anyone with information about the case should e-mail Grassley’s staff on the Senate Judiciary Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org. Grassley is soon to be the chairman of the committee.
Mike Curtis, a property manager from Manassas, helped form the “Justice for John Geer” group as an off-shoot of CopBlock.org, a national police accountability group, and Northern Virginia CopBlock, a regional version. “We can’t identify who killed this man,” Curtis said. “It it’s an accident, why not just say it’s an accident. Why has it lasted so long? This man’s got children, a common law wife, parents. You just shoot him and you can’t even tell why or who?”
A federal employee who is using the online name Lorelei McFly, because she does not want to suffer repercussions at her job, is helping run the Facebook page, and said one of its early posts was shared more than 2,600 times and reached more than 207,000 people. “People care about this story,” she said. “It really seems like the Fairfax County Police Department is not accountable to anyone, the Board of Supervisors is not interested in making them accountable and the county attorney is not interested in making them accountable.”
The Fairfax police and supervisors said they will not discuss the case, or even release such typically disclosed information as the officer’s age, length of service and assignment, while it is under federal investigation, though no law prohibits such discussion and the Justice Department has stated publicly it has not advised Fairfax to remain silent about the case. In September, after a year had passed, Geer’s family sued Fairfax County for answers, but Fairfax has fought that in court.
The “Justice for John Geer” group wants to hold public protests, appear and speak at Fairfax government meetings, write letters and e-mails to elected officials, and take other non-violent actions to push for a resolution to the case, Curtis and McFly said.
“We have to act for ourselves,” Curtis said. “We have to do it because they’re [the government] not going to. Something like this, it doesn’t affect people, it’s not happening to them. Before it personally happens to you, you need to realize and do something about it so it doesn’t happen to you.”
Curtis added that the Geer shooting has “really begun to affect me personally. What if it was me, how would I feel? How would my family feel?” He said after each troubling police incident, citizens “get some small promises and quit. Now we’re back to that point again.” McFly noted that the Fairfax supervisors in 2011 rejected the idea of an independent civilian oversight board but didn’t close the door on it, saying, “There is no strong evidence that a citizen review board provides additional value to a review process, however, this remains an option, if over the long term there is dissatisfaction with the effectiveness of the proposed auditor model,” in which a county auditor looks at the police internal affairs process. McFly said the time is right for the board to reconsider.
The “Justice for John Geer” Facebook page is here.
More from The Post:
Man killed in police shooting identified
Father of man shot by police said a detective told him he was not armed
Five months after Fairfax police killed John Geer, more delays ahead in resolving case
The death of John Geer: Now seven months of silence on Fairfax police shooting
Ten months of silence in the Fairfax police shooting death of John Geer
After a year with no answers in Fairfax police slaying of John Geer, family sues
Document: Lawsuit in Fairfax County police slaying of John Geer
Editorial: The unaccountable death of John Geer
McCartney: Fairfax should force police to come clean over shooting of unarmed John Geer
Grassley demands answers from Fairfax police, U.S. attorney in John Geer case
Fairfax County police respond to Grassley in John Geer shooting, reveal little
Feds say Fairfax County slowed investigation of John Geer police shooting
John Geer case moves to Justice Dept. civil rights division, Fairfax County remains silent
Senators Weigh In on Fairfax Police Killing
By John Lovaas/Reston Impact Producer/Host
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
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#We have positive developments in the still unexplained slaying of John Geer by a still unidentified Fairfax County police officer on Aug. 29, 2013. Fairfax Police Chief Ed Roessler refuses to release the shooter’s name or any information. Commonwealth Attorney Ray Morrogh, who is responsible for investigating police criminality but is usually more a mouthpiece for the cops, declined to investigate at all. Citing a mystery conflict of interest, he passed the case to the U.S. Attorney.
#The latter says he is doing an investigation “…to determine whether the shooting involved prosecutable violations of Mr. Geer’s civil rights.” It turns out the police have not been very cooperative with either the Commonwealth Attorney or the U.S. Attorney. The latter had to litigate to get the cops to provide evidence. Meanwhile the Board of Supervisors, nominal superiors of the County cops, have stood by in craven silence for the 16 months since Mr. Geer was gunned down. John Geer’s family-father, partner, and children-waited patiently for over a year for an explanation. It never came. They recently sued FCPD for $12 million—payable by the taxpayers. Finally, a Virginia State Senator and a U.S. Senator are speaking up about the inaction by Fairfax authorities, in particular. State Senator Toddy Puller has recommended to Chairman Bulova that the “…Board of Supervisors create, appoint, and support a Citizens Review Board… to keep the Fairfax County police accountable…” She notes in her Oct. 24 letter that her constituents have concerns “about the ability of the police to investigate themselves honestly and fairly.” That is a massive understatement after 72 years have passed with many police killings, but not one single officer even charged in connection with a killing. Now, Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), far from his congressional turf but with a reputation for concern about transparency in government, is sharply questioning Fairfax police behavior and lack of transparency. In response to Senator Grassley’s five written questions, Chief Roessler told him quite bluntly nothing. The Senator was not impressed with Roessler’s response commenting that “No one should be immune from accountability.” But in Fairfax County, the police remain absolutely unaccountable even as they continue to gun down unarmed citizens. One wonders where is the outrage that we have seen in Ferguson and in New York City where cops recently killed unarmed African Americans and to date remain immune from punishment. Maybe it is because in Fairfax County, skin color is not determinant. Our police are equal opportunity shooters. The common thread is lack of accountability. How can police accountability be built and citizen trust restored in Fairfax County? Here’s how. Chairman Bulova and the Board of Supervisors should: 1) promptly sack Chief Roessler; 2) create a Citizens Review Board as recommended by State Senator Puller. The CRB should be empowered to investigate complaints about police use of lethal force and abuse of residents; 3) request that the State Police take over the Geer case, name the shooter, conduct a thorough criminal investigation and make appropriate recommendations to the Commonwealth Attorney; and, 4) issue an apology to the Geer family and the public for what has transpired since John Geer’s death way back in August 2013.
John Geer case moves to Justice Dept. civil rights division, Fairfax County remains silent
By Tom Jackman December 8
As the silence and the delay mount surrounding the Fairfax County police shooting death of John Geer in August 2013, Geer’s family has always had one question: Why won’t anyone tell us what happened? Forget about charges and liability and grand juries. Just, Why?
The Post has now learned that the case, handled by the U.S. attorney in Alexandria since January, was recently shifted to the Justice Department’s civil rights division for further review, officials close to the case said. If the local authorities intend to wait until a ruling comes from there, where the Trayvon Martin shooting from February 2012 is still under consideration among others, the wait could be much much longer for the Geer family.
The Fairfax police and prosecutors have released nothing beyond this press release 15 months ago: Upon responding to a domestic dispute, and being advised that Geer had guns in the house, officers spoke to him calmly in his doorway for 50 minutes, and then fired one shot “that struck the man,” killing him. The press release did not note that Geer was not armed. Geer’s parents, his partner of 24 years, and his two teenaged daughters expected that they would soon learn the rest of the story. Why was a shot fired? By whom?
There is no law against discussing a case while it is still under investigation, and the Justice Department said in a letter released last week that it has not advised the Fairfax police not to discuss the case. The police have an internal policy of not discussing such cases while they are pending, and Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. has decided not to make an exception in the Geer shooting. On the advice of the Fairfax County attorney’s office, headed by David Bobzien and his top assistants on this case Cynthia Tianti and Karen Gibbons, the police said they will not even release the age, length of service and duty assignment of the officer involved, which police policy states “shall be released” unless it jeopardizes the investigation, and Fairfax has done so in previous cases.
The officer’s name also has not been released and he has not spoken publicly. He is waiting too, for a ruling on his fate. His lawyer, John Carroll, said Friday he could not discuss the case.
Who could solve the information stalemate? The Fairfax Board of Supervisors, who, with one exception, have sat silently throughout the case. The supervisors hire the police chief and oversee the department. But the board, on the advice of the county attorney, will not help the Geers. I asked each of the nine supervisors last week about their view on releasing information about the case to the dead man’s family. Four did not respond. One, Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield), stood up for transparency and criticized the guidance the board has gotten from the county attorney throughout the case. Then on Friday afternoon, the board and Chairman Sharon Bulova released statements expressing frustration with the length of the investigation, and ignoring the issue of simply disclosing the facts of the case.
Herrity has been the most vocal about resolving the case and informing the family. But he is only one supervisor. “The police and the county attorney report to the Board of Supervisors. They do not, however, report to me,” Herrity said. “However I believe there is no reason we should not be releasing basic details, that as you have pointed out that even our policy allows – age, years of service and work location. I have asked the county attorney for an explanation as to why they are not providing that information. The board did instruct the county attorney to provide information to Justice, but I believe the instruction came too late. Both the officer and the Geer family deserve a timely resolution in this matter and the county should not be throwing up roadblocks in the investigation.”
Herrity was referring to the Justice Department’s letter to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who last month asked both the Fairfax police and the Justice Department what was taking so long with the case. The Justice Department said Fairfax had “withheld documents” which caused litigation, likely related to a secret grand jury investigation. “I’m not an attorney but I’m not sure the board is getting the best advice,” Herrity said.
“Fortunately,” Grassley said last week, the Justice Department’s “letter removes the excuse for not answering questions, since it clearly states that the police department is free to disclose information about the shooting. So, there is no reason to keep the family and the public in the dark. ”
On possibly releasing information, Supervisor Penny Gross (D-Mason) said, “As an elected official, I try very hard not to compromise the integrity of any investigation, whether a police shooting or a traffic accident. Justice is not served by elected officials inserting themselves into criminal investigations.”
Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) said, “I understand if they aren’t satisfied with the lack of information they are getting. No one wants to do anything to jeopardize a possible criminal prosecution. However, this process needs to be made more transparent going forward. I believe most, if not all, of the Supervisors are committed to making that happen.”
Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock) said, “By law we can’t release information that is part of an investigation while the investigation is still open.”
Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) said, “The Geer family and the community deserve information and closure,” but she would not commit to assisting with that.
The board’s joint statement on Friday said, “the Board of Supervisors also will not compromise the integrity of a criminal investigation by inserting themselves into that process.” Supervisor Michael Frey (R-Sully) said he agreed with that. Supervisors Catherine Hudgins, Jeff McKay, Gerald Hyland and Linda Smyth did not respond to requests for comment, nor did top police commanders. No one has explained how, exactly, releasing information after 15 months would jeopardize an investigation.
There are many good reasons to keep the details of any criminal investigation confidential, obviously: not tipping your hand to the suspects, not saying something that could hurt you later, and not unfairly defaming an innocent person, to name a few. But here the situation is different: the suspect is an agent of the government, the victim does not appear to have posed any threat, and the case has been thoroughly investigated for far longer than any standard, seemingly out-in-the-open homicide. Meanwhile, an innocent family suffers its second holiday season without a son, a partner, a father.
In interviews with me and Peggy Fox of WUSA-9, Herrity made it clear that the county attorney’s office is calling the shots here, strongly advising both the board and the police to remain silent. This is not unusual advice from a lawyer in a potential criminal case. It was also the county attorney’s office which resisted prosecutor Morrogh’s request for internal affairs or personnel records of the officers involved, several officials familiar with the case said. Employees are entitled to some privacy in their personnel records, and some lawyers pointed out that an officer could sue Fairfax if his records were wrongly released.
But here, it appears that Morrogh was trying to circumvent the problem prosecutors often face in charging a police officer with a crime, whether in Fairfax or Ferguson. Prosecutors in Virginia must prove that an officer had malicious intent or recklessness while acting in the line of duty, and if an officer reasonably believed — even wrongly — that he was in danger, the shooting is legally justified. Morrogh, probably with reason, sought the officer’s records to possibly show a pattern of recklessness or disregard for safety. The county attorney advised the police to refuse, numerous officials have said. So Morrogh shifted the case to federal prosecutors, who could then subpoena the records.
Officials familiar with the case said federal prosecutors did that, and again the Fairfax county attorney resisted. According to the letter sent by Justice to Grassley, the measure was “favorably litigated by the Department.” That letter also said that once the investigation concluded in Alexandria, the U.S. attorney’s office and the criminal section of the civil rights division “will promptly make a decision on the appropriateness of pursuing criminal charges in this case.”
Meanwhile, the police and Fairfax county attorney’s resistance to relinquish internal affairs information cost the Fairfax prosecutor an entire criminal case on Friday. A Centreville man was facing trial on felony charges of malicious wounding of a police officer and two counts of assault on a police officer. In early September, a Fairfax circuit judge ordered Fairfax prosecutors to review the internal affairs file — the fight between the man and the three officers had resulted in a “use of force” internal investigation — and provide any relevant documents to defense attorney Peter D. Greenspun, court records show. But the police resisted allowing the prosecutor to see the file until early December, Greenspun said. On Friday, three months after the deadline to provide the information to the defense, Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Jane Marum Roush threw out the entire case against the man accused of assaulting three police officers.
The Geer family has tried another avenue to obtain information: a civil lawsuit against Fairfax County, filed shortly after the one-year anniversary of the shooting. So far it has produced nothing, court records show. The family’s lawyers, in one instance, made 100 requests for pre-trial documents and information. The county attorney’s office responded with 100 objections.
Previously in The Post:
Grassley now seeks answers from Fairfax prosecutor on John Geer police slaying
By Tom Jackman December 16
Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh, left, with Fairfax City Police Chief Carl Pardiny, speaks to reporters during a news conference in front of the Fairfax City Police station in Fairfax, Va., Monday, Oct. 20, 2014. The suspect in the disappearance of a University of Virginia student was charged Monday with abducting and raping a woman in suburban Washington, in 2005. The indictment against Jesse L. Matthew Jr. was handed up by a Circuit Court grand jury in Fairfax County and includes a charge of attempted capital murder, according to the indictment. Matthew, 32, is being held in Charlottesville, Va., on a charge related to the Sept. 13 disappearance of Hannah Graham, an 18-year-old from northern Virginia. (AP Photo/Matthew Barakat)
Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh, left, with Fairfax City Police Chief Carl Pardiny, speaks during a news conference in October. Morrogh investigated the Fairfax County police shooting of John Geer for four months, then passed the case to the U.S. attorney in Alexandria. Sen. Charles Grassley now wants to know why. (AP/Matthew Barakat)
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is continuing his quest to break the silence surrounding the August 2013 Fairfax County police killing of John Geer in Springfield. After sending letters last month to the Fairfax police chief and the U.S. attorney in Alexandria, Grassley has now sent a letter to Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh, asking if the Fairfax police refused to cooperate with his investigation and why he referred the case to the U.S. attorney.
The full letter is below.
Geer, 46, was shot after a 50-minute stand-off with at least two Fairfax officers, as he stood unarmed in the doorway of his townhouse with his hands above his head on the storm door. One officer fired one shot into Geer’s chest, police and witnesses said, and police then waited an hour before rendering aid. The police said in their response to Grassley that Geer had seven long guns and a handgun in his home, though his longtime partner, Maura Harrington, said the long guns were all locked away.
The officer’s name, age, length of service and assignment all have been withheld by Fairfax authorities. No ruling has been made on whether the shooting was justifiable. After four months, Morrogh referred the case to U.S. Attorney Dana Boente in Alexandria, saying he had a “conflict of interest.” In November, Boente’s office wrapped up its investigation and shipped the case to the Justice Department’s civil rights division, which will decide whether criminal charges should be filed.
Grassley said Thursday that “the more answers we receive, the more questions there are.” He said there were conflicting reports on why Morrogh referred the case to the feds and that doing so “raises important questions about the sphere of charges that could be brought following an investigation, and whether possible violations of state law will ever be investigated.”
Both the police and the Justice Department responded to letters from Grassley, mainly saying that they could not provide details of the case while it was still under investigation, and that they could not say when the investigation would conclude. The Justice Department letter indicated that part of the delay, with the shooting now nearly 16 months old, occurred when Fairfax attorneys “withheld materials” and that there were “a number of challenges in investigating this case.”
“Did FCPD ever refuse to provide to your office,” Grassley wrote, “any information, documents or evidence pertaining to this case — including the personnel file or the internal affairs file of the officer who allegedly shot John Geer?” Grassley also asked Morrogh if he had tried to refer the case to the Virginia attorney general or another county prosecutor, and what conflict of interest caused him to move the case to the feds.
Morrogh said Tuesday he was traveling and had not seen the letter. He has declined to comment on the case throughout, first while he was investigating it and then after he referred it to the U.S. attorney. In previous fatal police shootings in Fairfax, Morrogh or his predecessor have issued rulings within about three months and then provided explanations for their actions. No Fairfax County police officer has ever faced criminal charges for a shooting in the line of duty in the department’s 74-year history.
The Washington DC Metro system is among the safest in the world but the Fairfax County Police have decided to police the metro lines in Fairfax County despite the fact that Metro already employees 490 officers, 64 special police and 91 civilian personnel to do police the lines.
Fairfax County’s Police chief, another grossly overpaid nameless, faceless guy in a silly suit said “It increases our chances of arresting black people from DC and murdering more unarmed white men, we’re really looking forward to this, mostly because we’ll get away with it”
The chief denied that this is a waste of tax dollars that could be used to build a second beltway or hire more teachers. “We waste money all the time, so there must be a lot of it to waste, right?”
He also denied that there are too many police on the force and not enough for them to do “Firstly, if there are too many cops on the force why are there so many cops on the force? Answer me that. Second firstly, we’re trying to balance out our unarmed kill ratio and this will allow us to murder more black men and maybe even some of those one who don’t talk in no good English, especially the urine colored ones”
Supervisor Gerry “Opps Dearie! Hyland said “I just love me a man in a uniform, I’m Gay and there is certainly nothing wrong with that but all I can say is; it let it rain men in uniform!”
Look! We scanned millions of license plates with this at your expense and have no way to retrieve the information.
FOIA Request On Effectiveness Of License Plate Readers Greeted With A Blank Stare By Virginia Police Department
from the I'm-not-familiar-with-the-sort-of-thing-you're-asking-for dept
Law enforcement agencies are generally pretty happy with their automatic license plate readers. It allows them to harvest millions of plate/location records without having to exit their vehicles, much less slow them down. It also allows them to spring from their cruisers with guns out and force non-car thieves into submissive positions while they perform the sort of due diligence that should have been completed long before the cops/guns exited their respective holders.
What they don't seem to like is anyone asking questions about the massive databases they're compiling or whether they've bothered to institute any minimization/privacy policies. When questioned, they usually talk about what a great tool it is for crime-fighting, even if said tool contains millions of useless photos entirely unrelated to criminal activity. Some even claim that every single photo in the database is integral to ongoing investigations and therefore cannot be subjected to minimization procedures, much less the pesky FOIA requests of surveilled citizens.
And sometimes, these agencies are so sure they like the tech that they can't even be bothered to determine whether it's actually doing anything to assist in the business of law enforcement. Stephen Gutowski at the Capitol City Project recently asked the Fairfax County, VA police about the effectiveness of its license plate photo database and got this 'FILE NOT FOUND' statement in response.
This letter is in response to your FOIA request in which you requested the number of ALPR records Fairfax County currently has on file. This number is constantly fluctuating, but as of 05/20/2014 at 1003 hours there were 2,731,429 reads in the system.
You further requested any available metric the county uses to determine the system's effectiveness. It was found that the Fairfax County Police Department does not possess any such responsive materials based on the information you requested.
The assumption here is that the system works. The Fairfax County PD occasionally posts arrests linked to ALPR database hits and… well, beyond that, the PD draws a blank. Presumably a handful of arrests justifies a multi-million image-and-location photo database. But this lack of self-assessment shouldn't be acceptable, not for an agency that has abused its technology in the past.
It came to light late last year that the Fairfax PD trolled political rallies to grab more plate data, racking up nearly 70,000 photos in five days. This abuse prompted a local lawmaker to push legislation aimed at severely limiting, if not completely eradicating, ALPR readers in his district. Not a bad idea, as far it goes.
Virginia law enforcement agencies aren't going to be happy with this move and they'll be able to mobilize a pretty powerful opposition. But these are the same entities that tried to bury info on plate readers back in 2009, simply because they felt the public might try to get the system shut down if they knew what was going on. But the lack of controls or any gauge of the system's effectiveness shouldn't be allowed to escape unnoticed, because the failure to monitor error rates and hits can result in catastrophic consequences for citizens whose plates trigger false hits -- something this system does at twice the rate of recoveries.
The license plate readers demonstrated a high error rate. Four ALPR vehicles used in Fairfax County over the course of five nights in February 2009 scanned 69,281 vehicles. The camera database produced twelve bogus hits and recovered four stolen vehicles, for a recovery rate of 0.6 percent and an error rate of 1.7 percent.
The technology can be used responsibly, but law enforcement agencies with tough minimization policies are almost nonexistent. And as we've seen twice in the last month alone, officers relying on faulty data aren't making an effort to verify database hits before attempting to effect arrests. Someone's going to be hurt or killed because of bad data, and hardly anyone in law enforcement seems to be concerned. If they did, strict policies on verification and disposal of non-hit data would be the rule, rather than the exception.
The Fairfax County cops are painting a car with distracting sentences and parking it near a busy road to stop drivers from being distracted.
This leads us to the question…..does it get….could it possibly get..…more white trashy than this? People, we have got to elect someone to the Board of Supervisors who will take charge the morons at the police department, I mean, my God, what’s next? Mandatory incest? Regulation flower planters in old tires on our front lawns?
It’s terrible to pick on the mouth breathers I know, and yes, understandably most cops on the Fairfax County police force probably have an abandoned car on cinderblocks in their drive way in Loudon County so printed cars make sense to them and yes, were in Dixie, but Good Lord, can we at least try to pretend were not? I mean….printed cars?
I’m going to write this next sentence slowly so as not to confuse the cops: A car covered in anti-drinking- and-driving sentences will not decrease the vast number of idiots who drive around drunk. They’re too drunk to read the notes side of the car and attention deficit drivers are too busy to read it.
The cops say that it’s okay for this idiocy to happen because the printing cost is being covered by Transurban, the people who operate the 495 Express Lanes. You want stop crime? Arrest those shameless money hungry pricks.
Start there and work your way up to finding the missing files in the John Geer shooting case then you’ll have the credibility to tell other people about obeying law. We would rather live with drunk and distracted driver than with a police force that guns down unarmed citizens.
Fairfax County Police Watch: Fairfax County Police kill another unarmed man.: According to the latest reports, the homeless man gunned down the shoot-happy Fairfax County police was unarmed. It appears that the...
The Fairfax County Police Greatest Hits.
The case of the Naked Guy and the Fairfax County Police.
Woman calls police: “My neighbors are fornicating in plain view!”
Cop arrives. “Well, ma’am, can you show me what’s going on?”
They go into the backyard. “Right over there,” she says, “just look.”
Right over there is an 8-foot tall brick wall.
“Ma’am, there’s a wall there.”
“Sure there is, but you can see them plain as day if you use that ladder.”
In October of 2010, the Fairfax County Police arrested a man for not wearing clothes in his house. This actually happened. A few days after the arrest, the world press ran with the story, the Fairfax County Police and once again thanks to the block headed actions of its police force, Fairfax County was the butt, pun intended, of an international joke.
The cops illegally entered the home and arrested the man for indecent exposer. They had no evidence to make the arrest and the true law breaker in the tale, a trespasser who was married to a cop, was not prosecuted. Nor were the cops who made broke into the man’s home arrested or reprimanded. They got away with it.
Eric Williamson was 29 years old at the time and s a commercial diver who grew up in Hawaii. He was renting the home with several co-workers. Williamson’s roommates had left for work by 5:30. Alone in the house he made coffee and eggs and started packing up his belongings. He had lost his job a few days earlier, and he was planning to move to his mother's house near Virginia Beach. By 9 a.m. he had gotten dressed to walk out to his car and that by 10 a.m., he was napping in his room. Police arrived about an hour later, he said.
The complaint came from an unidentified woman, the wife of a cop, who said she was walking with a child when she walked onto Williamson’s property, looked into his home and saw him naked. The house sits back from the sidewalk and separated by a large lawn and a long drive way. The woman would have to have stopped, walked on to his property, and looked past the large lawn, past a vestibule, past a living room and into his kitchen to see him naked
She (Police wouldn't release the incident report or the name of the mother who filed the complaint.) later said that Williamson was posing in a window (She later changed that to posing in a doorway) naked. In court, Williamson testified he never posed in any doorway or window as the woman said he did and had no intent to flash the pedestrians.
Williamson claimed that there was no prior relationship of any kind between him and the woman and the cop’s wife never did explain why she was walking around on a darkened sidewalk with a child at 5:30 AM on a 35 degree morning. She later changed the time to 8:00 AM and explained that she was walking the child to school but the school didn’t start until 9:00 AM. If anything, the cop’s wife probably should have been charged as a Peeping Tom. The wife went home and phoned her husband who phone his fellow cops with the complaint.
“Sha'aron” Williams, the cop who took the call said that when he arrived at Williamson’s house, the house was dark, he could see no one around and he left after a few minutes.
He returned with two other cops at 9:16, and entered the house illegally under the pretext that the entering an unlocked house was Fairfax police policy when the police suspected the property had been broken into or someone was injured or in danger inside. Under that logic, the cops could enter any persons unlocked and empty home whenever they felt like it.
Williams said that upon entering the five….five…..cops drew their weapons "just in case we encountered a hostile individual," Williams said, like the owner of the property who would expect them to have a warrant.
The cops went upstairs where they found Williamson asleep in bed with his pants on. The cops pointed their guns at him, screamed several different set of directions at him that included sit up, stay where you are, don’t move and to show his hands.
"All of a sudden, I get woken up by police officers, and this guy has a Taser gun in my face," he said. "I'm freaking out. Is this a movie? A horrible dream?" One of the five cops called him a pervert while and others looked through his belongings. One cop screamed about how Williamson was walking around in the house, naked.
"I looked straight at the cops and said, 'You're telling me that none of you guys have ever walked across your kitchen or run to the laundry room to get some pants?' "Williamson said.
An illegal search of Williamsons belonging found a traffic summons which the cops used to identify Williamson. What that means is that they had no idea who they were looking for when they illegally entered the property ready to shoot someone.
The cops, who came across as hysterical and terrified, screamed at Williamson about being naked and Williamson "he was up making coffee; he might have been in the nude." And why was that illegal?
"Yes” Williamson said “I wasn't wearing any clothes but I was alone, in my own home and just got out of bed. It was dark and I had no idea anyone was outside looking in at me"
Confused and probably realizing they were screwed for an illegal entry and search of a private property so they could tie an unknown person to what they wrongly assumed was a crime, the cops left and huddled outside and questioned each other about what to do next.
The question the cops should have asked was “What is the proof of the complaint” and there wasn’t any. At that moment Williamson walked outside to his truck, carrying an open beer and one of the cops, Stewart Struthers, asked if they could take his photo but didn’t reveal the reason he the photo, but Williamson agreed.
The cops then took the photo over the wife of the policeman who called in the complaint who said that it was the man that she said was in his house.
The cops then went back to Williamson's house and arrested him, intending to charge him with felony indecent exposure because a child was involved but the best they could get from a magistrate only charged Williamson with a misdemeanor. "I was treated like an animal. If there was something offensive, would not a knock on the door and heads-up suffice?"
One cop said that the police consulted the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office and they were given the Okay to proceed with the charge. However the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office later said they didn’t offer that advice.
So the Fairfax County Police did what they have done to so many other citizens in the past, they launched a terrorism campaign against Williamson. One of the cops called Williamson’s employer and told him that they had arrested Williamson for exposing himself to children. The employer also rented the house where Williamson lived and ordered Williamson to immediately leave the house.
The cops taunted Williamson, the father of a five year old child, and told him that he would more than probably have been forced to register as a sexual offender. They said that if he admitted what he did, they might be able to lower the charges, if not, they were certain he would be convicted and sentenced to a year in prison.
When the local press started to report what happened and dubbed Williamson “The naked coffee guy” the cops panicked and started to hand out fliers in the neighborhood asking people to report anything about the incident or others like it. The Fairfax County Police are overstaffed and have a lot of time on their hands.
The judge in the case, Ian M. O'Flaherty, likened Williamson to bank robber John Dillinger and decided that that Williamson nudity "indicates an obscene display" and found Williamson guilty of misdemeanor indecent exposure, sentenced him to 180 days in jail, but suspended the sentence.
Williamson said he was shocked by the verdict. He suggested after the hearing that he was the victim of a double standard. “If I was looking in her window, I think we’d be having a whole different conversation,” he said.
Williamson appealed his case to the county's circuit court, risking a maximum punishment of a year in jail to clear his name. On April 7, 2010 Erick Williamson was acquitted by a jury. He was found not guilty after less than 20 minutes of deliberations.
They got away with it. The cops illegally entered the home and arrested the man for indecent exposer. They had no evidence to make the arrest and the true law breaker in the tale, a trespasser who was married to a cop, was not prosecuted. Nor were the cops who made broke into the man’s home arrested or reprimanded. They got away with it. The case underlines the constant complain that the Fairfax County Police were overpaid and underworked had too much time on their hands and an incident like this would have been handled differently in another place where the police have work to do.
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