The Washington Post

Alexandria prosecutor Randy Sengel again issues detailed report in fatal police shooting

Outside the Alexandria courthouse, Commonwealth's Attorney S. Randolph Sengel tells reporters about his conclusion. (By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post) Outside the Alexandria courthouse in 2006, Commonwealth’s Attorney S. Randolph Sengel tells reporters about his conclusions in the Aaron Brown shooting. (Lucian Perkins/The Washington Post)

We probably haven’t heard the last of the fatal shooting of Tate Sellers by Alexandria police officers in February. But Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Sengel’s 30-page analysis of the shooting, issued publicly this morning, will go a long way toward quieting any public outrage over the case, as it did when he issued one in 2006 after the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Aaron Brown in an International House of Pancakes parking lot. It is detailed, it has corroborating witnesses and it is open to the public.

The Post’s Matt Zapotosky has the initial story here, and will have more after a Sengel news conference this afternoon, and response from the Sellers family. Among the new revelations in his report: Seven officers drew down on Sellers as he stood outside an apartment building with a gun behind his back, though no officer was closer than 44 feet. They spoke to Sellers for eight minutes trying to convince him to show his hands, Sellers wrote. Instead, Sellers raised his gun and pointed it at one of the officers, and all seven officers opened fire.

Sengel determined that the officers fired 37 shots, and five hit Sellers, including a rifle shot to the head. Sengel’s report also reveals that two people shot video of the incident, and he also interviewed witnesses who corroborated the officers’ claims that they tried to talk to Sellers, and only fired after he aimed his weapon at them. Sengel also diagrams where everyone was and where their shell casings were found.

Sengel then dissected the reactions and number of shots fired by the officers, reviewed scientific literature on such matters, and concluded that the officers acted justifiably when facing an armed man. His report again sets a high bar for other Virginia prosecutors who rule on police shootings, which now confronts Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman as he considers the case of the woman shot dead in Costco recently by Loudoun sheriff’s deputies. The reports by Sengel, both today and in 2006, go a long way toward assuring the community that there is some transparency in government and that police shootings aren’t simply rubber-stamped and approved by prosecutors. The 2006 report on the Brown case is here.

Here is Sengel’s report on the Sellers case:

Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.



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