Man killed by Fairfax, Va., officer had no gun

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 19, 2009; B03

The man who was shot and killed by a Fairfax County police officer Friday did not have a gun, police acknowledged Wednesday, and police again declined to say why the officer fired on the man.

David A. Masters, 52, of Fredericksburg was in his Chevrolet Blazer sport-utility vehicle on Route 1 in the Huntington area when a Fairfax officer tried to pull him over. Masters, who was suspected of stealing flowers from a landscaping business in Mount Vernon, stopped and then continued toward the intersection of Fort Hunt Road, where he ran into heavy traffic, police said.

Then he was shot and killed, police said. Five days after the incident, police officials have not said whether Masters got out of his vehicle, made any threatening moves or comments, or had a weapon, although a news release Wednesday said that "preliminary results indicate no gun was found inside Masters' car."

Gail Masters, his ex-wife, said Wednesday: "That's not shocking. He never owned any weapons."

Police confirmed Wednesday that they have interviewed the officer who fired the fatal shots. He was interviewed by detectives Tuesday morning with his attorney, Edward J. Nuttall, sources familiar with the case said. Officer Bud Walker said he did not know what the officer told the investigators. The officer's name has not been released.

Masters was a former Army Green Beret and the son of a retired U.S. Army colonel. He had long suffered from bipolar disorder, his family said. He also had a massive heart attack in 2007 and had a pacemaker installed.

Gail Masters said police told her that David Masters had opened his jacket during the traffic stop and that the officer might have thought he was reaching for a gun.

"He never even owned a pocketknife," Gail Masters said. "He never hurt anyone. He never fought anyone."

David Masters was wearing his Army beret, which can be seen on the ground outside his Blazer in photos taken after the shooting. A large hole in the left rear passenger window can also be seen.

Masters' immediate family -- his parents, brother and two sisters -- released a statement Tuesday through their attorney, Jon E. Shields.

"The family is not currently in a position to comment on the actions of the police officers involved in David's death," the statement says. "However, at this point, our family has not been provided with any information from which we can conclude that David engaged in any conduct which would justify the use of deadly force against him."

The statement concludes that the family will wait for the results of investigations by the police homicide unit, the police internal affairs division and the Virginia medical examiner's office before reaching any conclusions about "David's senseless death."

After the shooting, three officers were placed on administrative leave with pay. Fairfax police Wednesday corrected an earlier misstatement that none of the officers had been interviewed. The two officers who were nearby, but did not fire at Masters, were interviewed Friday, police said, and the officer who shot Masters agreed to be interviewed with his attorney.

Police previously had said that he had declined to be interviewed.

Two of the three officers have returned to normal duties, police said Wednesday, and the third will be placed on administrative duties when he returns to work next week. Walker said personnel rules prohibited him from specifying which officer was not returning to patrol duties.

The officer who shot Masters is 26 years old, has six years' experience and is assigned to the Mount Vernon district. The other officers are 27 with three years' experience and 38 with 15 years' experience, police said.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company