Our elected leaders are so in bed with the cops it takes a Senator from another state to look into the Geer killing
Grassley seeks more answers from Fairfax police, DOJ in Geer case
By Tom Jackman February 11 at 12:30 PM
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) on Wednesday released two new letters he has sent to the Justice Department and the Fairfax County Police Department seeking further answers about the ongoing investigation of the 2013 police shooting of John Geer, for which no decision has been made on whether to charge the officer who fired the fatal shot.
It was Grassley’s initial inquiry to the Justice Department in November which helped unlock a torrent of information about the case, particularly that four officers on the scene contradicted the claim of Officer Adam D. Torres that Geer had quickly lowered his hands to his waist when Torres shot him. Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows cited the Justice Department’s response to Grassley, in which they said they had not instructed Fairfax to remain silent on the case, in ordering Fairfax to provide vast portions of their investigative file to the Geer family’s lawyers and to not place it under seal.
Last week, Bellows again cited the Justice Departments letter to Grassley in both ordering Fairfax to also turn over their internal affairs files on Torres and to not impose a protective order on the material. The judge said he would allow federal officials to file its own motion for a protective order by Feb. 20 if it wanted the internal materials withheld from the public.
Geer, 46, had been involved in a domestic dispute with his partner of 24 years when police arrived at his Springfield townhouse on Aug. 29, 2013. He showed officers a holstered handgun, then placed it on the floor at his feet, police records show, and kept his hands on the top of his screen door for 42 minutes until Torres shot him. Torres remains on paid administrative duty. After Fairfax police refused to provide Torres’s internal affairs files to Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh, he referred the case to the Justice Department in January 2014, where it has remained.
In an interview Wednesday, Grassley said he decided to get involved in the local incident both because it had become a federal matter, in which the Senate Judiciary Committee has oversight, and because “transparency brings accountability. The big picture is what can police departments learn from this?”
Grassley also raised the issue, in his letter to Fairfax Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr., that the police department’s “refusal to cooperate with the Commonwealth Attorney” led Morrogh to shift the case to the U.S. attorney. This forced “the expenditure of limited federal resources on an investigation that should have been handled at the state level,” the senator wrote in a letter dated Tuesday. Grassley noted that even after the case went to the federal prosecutors, Fairfax police again refused to provide Torres’s internal affairs files “until ordered to do so by the court, after over two months of litigation.”
Grassley said Fairfax police used the federal investigation to refuse to release any information about the case, and “now we know that FCPD unnecessarily prolonged that investigation by its failure to cooperate.”
Grassley asked Roessler to cite the date when he first learned that “at least four of these officers provided accounts of the shooting that conflicted with that of Officer Torres.” He also asked what information the police had provided to the Fairfax Board of Supervisors in any briefings given to them.
Grassley also asked the chief if he would now provide the internal affairs files to the Fairfax prosecutor, since they have already been ordered to be given to the Geer family’s lawyers in their civil suit against Roessler.
Roessler and Fairfax’s chief spokesman, Tony Castrilli, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The letter may again require Fairfax to seek the services of attorney Mark Bierbower, a private lawyer hired by Fairfax to respond to Grassley’s first letter. Fairfax has not yet answered a recent inquiry about how much Bierbower was paid for his services.
Grassley’s letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asks if the Justice Department would object to the Fairfax prosecutor “conducting a concurrent investigation of the Geer shooting for possible violations of state law.” Morrogh has said he cannot comment or act on the case while it is being handled by Justice.
Grassley also asked if Justice would object to the Fairfax police providing their internal affairs files to Morrogh, and which internal affairs files had already been provied by Fairfax police to the Justice Department.
A Justice Department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Grassley’s letter.
Grassley said he did not live in Fairfax County, but “I think I had a legislative interest in this, not just an interest in intervening in a local police matter. Since we have some jurisdiction over U.S. attorneys, it gave me a chance to make an inquiry.” He said he learned that Geer’s family had shown great patience in waiting a year to file a lawsuit or speak publicly about the case, so he had waited to make his own inquiries, and wondered, “What can we learn from this, that maybe other police departments can learn from a bad experience?”
Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.