Two teenage victims shame police chief & the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
What does it say when a pair of teenagers are able to release a statement on an enormously emotional and personal subject, yet the chief of police for Fairfax County, Virginia blows it twice when responding to the very same issue?
You can’t help but admire the two daughters of John Geer, the man who was shot to death by a Fairfax County police officer in August, 2013. Haylea, 19, and Morgan, 15, suffered the killing of their father and were victims of the Fairfax County Government, yet, at a key moment in the case on Monday, they were able to bring some honesty and compassion to this awful mess.
Haylea and Morgan with their dad on Father’s Day 2012
Previously: Police chief tries to put cover-up behind him by shamefully rewriting history
You may recall that the leadership in Fairfax County withheld important information about the Geer case from local and federal prosecutors, a United States senator, the public and, most importantly, John Geer’s family. For 17-months, there was mostly silence about the case from Colonel Edwin Roessler Jr., the chief of the Fairfax County Police Department. It took a lawsuit by Geer’s survivors to force Roessler and company to do what they should have done from the start — tell the truth about what happened.
In early 2015, when a judge finally ordered Fairfax County to come clean, we all learned it was a bad shooting. That information came from the investigative files that included the accounts of the officers who witnessed what occurred. On Monday, the former officer who fired the fatal shot, Adam Torres, entered a guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter.
Faced with this latest news about the man who killed their dad, Haylea and Morgan responded in a way that is remarkable, especially when you consider the torment Fairfax County inflicted upon these teenagers and the rest of John Geer’s survivors. Geer’s children asked for justice and mercy. Here’s an excerpt from their statement:
It would be easier to give in to our personal feelings and cry out for Torres to be further punished; we are a society of laws, and there can be no doubt that we are entitled to use this trial as an outlet for our pain, to express our fury that our father was taken from us. However, we are called and reminded by that pain to avoid inflicting the same upon other children just to satisfy our emotions. It is rare that the easy choice is the right choice, and while we’ve lost our father, we must strive for both justice and mercy. Where Torres failed to show prudence and mercy, we will show him and his family both.
On the same day that this statement was released, Colonel Roessler issued an enormously self-serving statement that included one of the biggest lies we’ve heard throughout this 2-year and 8-month cover-up. Roessler said, “The men and women of the Fairfax County Police Department have fully cooperated with authorities during this investigation.”
When challenged on this unbelievably callous and false statement, Roessler tried to clarify what he meant during a conversation with The Washington Post’s Tom Jackman (Jackman’s article also includes a detailed accounting of the cover-up that occurred in the Geer case):
“The men and women told the absolute truth,” Roessler said, “there’s over 11,000 pages which show that. There’s no blue wall of silence. That’s what I want the community to know. There was legal advice given [on the internal affairs files], I’ve put processes in place to deal with that.
Here was the perfect moment for someone to finally be publicly accountable for the cover-up and obstruction of justice that occurred — a despicable conspiracy of silence that directly impacted the lives of these two young women. But the chief of police or anyone else in charge in Fairfax County couldn’t summon anything resembling the courage, compassion and humanity that was shown Monday by Haylea and Morgan.
Colonel Edwin Roessler Jr., chief of the Fairfax County Police Department
Instead, Ed Roessler tried to make the ridiculous case that the advice of a county attorney trumped the oath of office he took when he became a police officer and took again when he became the chief. But let’s not put this all on the chief’s shoulders. The best we can tell is that each of Roessler’s bosses — inside the county executive’s office and on up to Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Sharon Bulova — had a hand in some of the various decisions that furthered the cover-up.
Each one of them should have long-ago issued an apology to the citizens for their lack of leadership, transparency and candor. They should have also apologized to the men and women of the Fairfax County Police Department for tarnishing their reputation by failing to live up to the same high standards displayed by the officers who witnessed and investigated the Geer case. If there was actual accountability in Fairfax County, all of the “leaders” who contributed to the cover-up would have departed their positions early last year when we finally learned the truth they were hiding.
Most important, Roessler should have had the decency to issue a statement Monday that was as honest and heartfelt as the one issued by these two young women. But to do that would mean a public apology from the chief of police for failing to do his duty as a police officer. It would mean someone in Fairfax County admitting they withheld the truth about the death of Haylea and Morgan’s dad and greatly delayed justice being served.
But John Geer’s daughters had enough experience with Fairfax County to know that such an honest public accounting wasn’t coming from Roessler or anyone else. Even though their statement showed mercy for the man who killed their dad, these thoughtful teenagers weren’t as charitable to the people responsible for the cover-up. They made that extremely clear in the final paragraph of their statement:
As for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Fairfax County Police Department, we remain appalled by their actions in covering up the truth and putting Torres in the position to decide life and death given what they knew about his background. Until such time that the Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendations are adopted and the policies of the FCPD are changed, we fear that these tragic events can occur again with different victims and different officers. We call upon the Board to immediately adopt and implement the Committee’s recommendations without delay for the good of the FCPD and the citizens of Fairfax County. No family should have to suffer the loss of a mother, a father, or a loved one under circumstances like ours.