By Tom Jackman, Washington Post.
Sixteen months after a Fairfax County police officer shot and killed a Springfield man, officials for the first time Monday identified the officer as Adam D. Torres, and made a new claim that the man had a loaded gun nearby and threatened to use it.
The longtime partner of John B. Geer, 46, had called police on Aug. 29, 2013, after she told him she was leaving him and he responded by throwing her belongings out of their house. In a statement released Monday, police said they were told Geer not only had “multiple firearms” inside the townhouse but also that he was “displaying a firearm that he threatened to use against the police.” That statement contradicts previous witness accounts that Geer was unarmed when he was shot.
The attorney for Geer’s family, Michael Lieberman, strongly disputed the claim that Geer displayed a gun and threatened to use it. “I’ve never heard of him displaying any firearm at the police and I have no reason to believe he did,” Lieberman said. Don Geer, John Geer’s father, said he was told by police that his son was unarmed when he was shot.
Fairfax police declined to answer any questions about the statement or clarify when Geer displayed or threatened to use a gun. The handgun found inside the house was loaded and holstered, the statement said.
Fairfax officials did not notify Geer’s family or their lawyers that they planned to release the officer’s name and new details about the case, Lieberman said.
The statement also said that Geer refused officers’ requests to stay outside and speak with them, and that “a trained negotiator” tried to resolve the confrontation. But when Geer began lowering his hands from the top of his storm door after more than 30 minutes of discussions, “PFC Adam Torres fired a single shot that struck Geer.”
The statement said “Geer did not answer the officers’ calls and offers of medical aid.” Police waited for an hour — and for the arrival of a SWAT team and a hostage rescue vehicle — before entering Geer’s home, where he was found dead.
Fairfax said that “a loaded, holstered firearm was recovered on the landing of the stairs to Geer’s left where he had stood in the doorway and seven more firearms were recovered inside the home.”
Lieberman said he had never heard of a negotiator speaking with Geer and that the seven other guns in the house were in a locked safe.
Police said Torres is an eight-year veteran of the department and assigned as a patrol officer to the West Springfield district, but they declined to release his age. He has been on administrative duties since the shooting.
Torres could not be immediately located for comment. He has not been involved previously in any fatal police shootings in Fairfax.
The investigation of whether Torres should be charged with a crime was handled for four months by the Fairfax commonwealth’s attorney, who transferred the case in January 2014 to the U.S. attorney in Alexandria. Federal officials are considering whether to file civil rights charges in the case, but Fairfax Board Chairman Sharon Bulova said Monday she had no indication when that might be.
County officials said they felt the information release was appropriate after a Fairfax judge in the Geer family’s civil lawsuit against Fairfax last month ordered a vast amount of pretrial discovery to be released to the family. Before that, the police had refused to disclose Torres’s name or anything about him, or any details about why Torres might have shot Geer.
Bulova said county officials were frustrated by their inability to release information, but abided by policies that had worked in previous police shootings: to wait for a ruling on whether a crime was committed before discussing a case. But she said after 16 months, and the ruling in the civil case by Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows, she met Monday with Fairfax Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. and both felt the time was right to release the information.
Bulova said the timing was unrelated to a planned protest outside the Fairfax police headquarters Thursday by a group called Justice for John Geer, which recently formed to demand information about the shooting.
“This has just been an unusual situation,” Bulova said. “It was bumped up to the federal level for, I think, multiple reasons. And we were sort of left in limbo.”
Bulova said she did not know when the county’s lawyers would comply with Bellows’s order to release documents and other evidence to Geer’s family, but she said Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh did not object to the release. Bellows gave the county 30 days to provide the information.
Lieberman also said he did not know how or when he would receive the information. He said Monday’s statement appeared to be “damage control. To try to show they have some sense of transparency. A little late, I would say.”
Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.
I don’t believe this police report and I do believe that in the end, the cops will get away with this one too.
No one on the scene saw or heard John Geer speaking to a neither “trained negotiator” nor have the cops provided any photographs or film recording the trained negotiator, or provide the negotiators name.
Where are the photographs of the supposed holstered gun in the hallway? Are their two signed reports from two different cops declaring that they both found the gun in the hallway?
The police report leaves out the fact that the cops didn’t enter the property for almost an hour after they shot Geer and as a result, he bled to death and that the other weapons found on the property where under lock and key.
In the end, none of that matters. They’ll get away with this one too and nothing will change.
Statement from Fairfax County Police:
The Fairfax County Police Department reports that the Circuit Court of Fairfax County has determined that the department may release some information pertaining to the August 29, 2013, officer-involved shooting of John Geer, even while the investigations into the incident remain ongoing.
On August 29, 2013, Fairfax County police officers responded to a call by Geer's domestic partner reporting a domestic dispute with Geer. Officers spoke to the complainant and Geer outside their residence. Geer was reported as having multiple firearms inside the home, displaying a firearm that he threatened to use against the police, and refused the officers' requests that he remain outside and speak to them. Officers, including a trained negotiator, attempted to peaceably resolve the situation. They spoke with Geer for more than thirty minutes as he stood in the doorway of his home.
When Geer began lowering his hands at one point during the negotiations, PFC Adam Torres fired a single shot that struck Geer. Geer immediately retreated inside the home and shut the front door. Geer did not answer the officers' calls and offers of medical aid. A SWAT Team and a hostage rescue vehicle were used to effectuate a safe approach and entry into the home. Once inside, the SWAT officers, who were accompanied by a tactical paramedic, found Geer deceased. A loaded, holstered firearm was recovered on the landing of the stairs to Geer's left where he had stood in the doorway and seven more firearms were recovered inside the home.
This matter is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice and an internal, administrative investigation by the Police Department. Officer Torres, who has been employed by the Police Department for eight years, was placed on administrative duty following the incident and remains so pending the outcome of the criminal and administrative investigations.
Chairman Sharon Bulova's Statement
Chairman Sharon Bulova's Statement
On behalf of the Board of Supervisors, I would like to express my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of John Geer. Any untimely death is a tragedy, and our Board continues to be extremely frustrated and disappointed with the amount of time it has taken for this investigation to come to a resolution.
I am pleased that the information and details we are releasing today are now available to the public. This breaks the logjam that has prevented the sharing of information that the public and the Geer family have been requesting. In the Geer case, there are three separate investigations and a civil lawsuit. The County has policies in place to avoid interfering with and jeopardizing open criminal and civil cases. The court order resolves staff concerns regarding what could and could not be shared.
This is an unusual and complicated situation for Fairfax County. Our current policies regarding a police involved shooting do not address the unique situation where the Commonwealth's Attorney refers a case to federal investigators. Our Board will thoroughly review these policies to make sure we are consistently responsive and transparent with regard to police incidents and public safety concerns.
In Fairfax County, we have worked very hard to build trust within the community, especially with the Police Department, and our policies must reflect this.
Statistically, Fairfax County is the safest jurisdiction of its size in the United States and I am very proud of our public safety professionals who help to make that happen. In Fairfax County, our police officers enjoy a strong and positive partnership with the community they serve and protect. Each of our eight Police Districts has a Citizens Advisory Committee that meets regularly. At these meetings, residents of the area have the opportunity to learn of safety issues in their community and share information that is of concern to them. Additionally, the County's Neighborhood Watch programs operate with strong support from and collaboration with our Police Department. All of our Fairfax County high schools and middle schools benefit from specifically trained School Resource Officers.
As Chairman, I have made it a point to ride throughout the County with the Police Chief on National Night Out and I can tell you that the community's trust and appreciation of our police officers is enormous. Most recently, Chief Roessler established a Police Department Diversity Council, consisting of representatives of our County's minority populations, to help ensure law enforcement's sensitivity to the many cultural differences that exist within our community.
The unique positive relationship that our Police Department has established with the community they serve is significant. This has helped to foster trust of public safety and is a major factor in keeping our crime rate extraordinarily low. While this has been a unique and complicated set of circumstances, our Board is committed to making sure Fairfax County policies will not result in delays should similar situations arise in the future.
Fairfax County has provided all information and materials requested in order for these investigations to move forward. We join with the Geer family and the community in urging a fair and timely resolution.