Va. Teen Killed When Off-Duty Officer Fires at Approaching SUV

By Jamie Stockwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 26, 2006

An 18-year-old was killed by police early yesterday after he and a group of friends left an Alexandria restaurant without paying, got into an SUV and then tried to hit an off-duty police officer, who fired at the vehicle, striking a passenger, police said.

Police said Aaron R. Brown of Springfield was pronounced dead at the scene, a tiny parking lot outside the International House of Pancakes in the 6200 block of Duke Street. Brown was with three friends, who were not injured in the 3:40 a.m. shooting, police said. The Alexandria officer, a part-time security guard at the restaurant, also was not hurt.

The officer, a 13-year member of the department whom police would not identify, was put on administrative leave, said Capt. John Crawford, a police spokesman.

"We have so many victims involved in this case, from the 18-year-old who was killed to his friends who were with him to the officer, who made a split-second decision he will have to live with forever. We rely on our training and hope we make the right decision every time," Crawford said outside the restaurant yesterday. "It's a tragedy every way you look at it. "

Crawford said the officer, who was in uniform, was told by a restaurant employee that the teenagers had walked out on their bill.

The officer ran out to the parking lot, a tight space shared by IHOP patrons and guests at the Comfort Inn to which the restaurant is attached, and tried to stop the youths from fleeing. He stepped into the path of the 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Crawford said, and, "fearing for his safety," shot at the sport-utility vehicle.

Brown, sitting behind the driver, was struck. It was not immediately known how many shots were fired, Crawford said.

Police said the Jeep's driver, identified as 19-year-old Stephen J. Smith of Alexandria, was arrested shortly after the incident and charged with driving while intoxicated and possession of marijuana. He was released on bond yesterday afternoon, said Amy Bertsch, a police spokeswoman.

Crawford said the findings of internal investigations will be forwarded to Alexandria's chief prosecutor, S. Randolph Sengel, who will decide whether the shooting was justified. The case will also be sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for an independent review, Crawford said, as well as to a civilian group that reviews all police-involved incidents.

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