Troubled by the lack of information that has emerged about the Fairfax County police killing of John Geer in August 2013, a group of citizens has launched a protest movement called “Justice for John Geer.” The group is unrelated to, and has not contacted, Geer’s family or their lawyers, but since it launched late last month claims to already have 100 members and an active Facebook page where discussions are underway about actions the group might take to produce results.
Geer, 46, was standing in the doorway of his Springfield townhouse after a non-violent domestic dispute with his longtime partner. Fairfax officers aimed guns at him and spoke to him for 50 minutes, then one officer fired one shot into his chest. The police then waited an hour before rendering first-aid, by which time Geer was dead. The officer’s name and any explanation of his actions have not been released. The Fairfax commonwealth’s attorney shifted the case to the U.S. attorney in Alexandria in January. The U.S. attorney investigated, apparently using a federal grand jury to hear witnesses and subpoena documents, and then last month referred the case to the Justice Department’s civil rights division for a ruling on criminal charges.
Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has continued to press the matter. Members of his staff met Monday with Don Geer and Jeff Stewart, John Geer’s father and best friend, to tell them they are still interested in the investigation. Stewart said that anyone with information about the case should e-mail Grassley’s staff on the Senate Judiciary Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org. Grassley is soon to be the chairman of the committee.
Mike Curtis, a property manager from Manassas, helped form the “Justice for John Geer” group as an off-shoot of CopBlock.org, a national police accountability group, and Northern Virginia CopBlock, a regional version. “We can’t identify who killed this man,” Curtis said. “It it’s an accident, why not just say it’s an accident. Why has it lasted so long? This man’s got children, a common law wife, parents. You just shoot him and you can’t even tell why or who?”
A federal employee who is using the online name Lorelei McFly, because she does not want to suffer repercussions at her job, is helping run the Facebook page, and said one of its early posts was shared more than 2,600 times and reached more than 207,000 people. “People care about this story,” she said. “It really seems like the Fairfax County Police Department is not accountable to anyone, the Board of Supervisors is not interested in making them accountable and the county attorney is not interested in making them accountable.”
The Fairfax police and supervisors said they will not discuss the case, or even release such typically disclosed information as the officer’s age, length of service and assignment, while it is under federal investigation, though no law prohibits such discussion and the Justice Department has stated publicly it has not advised Fairfax to remain silent about the case. In September, after a year had passed, Geer’s family sued Fairfax County for answers, but Fairfax has fought that in court.
The “Justice for John Geer” group wants to hold public protests, appear and speak at Fairfax government meetings, write letters and e-mails to elected officials, and take other non-violent actions to push for a resolution to the case, Curtis and McFly said.
“We have to act for ourselves,” Curtis said. “We have to do it because they’re [the government] not going to. Something like this, it doesn’t affect people, it’s not happening to them. Before it personally happens to you, you need to realize and do something about it so it doesn’t happen to you.”
Curtis added that the Geer shooting has “really begun to affect me personally. What if it was me, how would I feel? How would my family feel?” He said after each troubling police incident, citizens “get some small promises and quit. Now we’re back to that point again.” McFly noted that the Fairfax supervisors in 2011 rejected the idea of an independent civilian oversight board but didn’t close the door on it, saying, “There is no strong evidence that a citizen review board provides additional value to a review process, however, this remains an option, if over the long term there is dissatisfaction with the effectiveness of the proposed auditor model,” in which a county auditor looks at the police internal affairs process. McFly said the time is right for the board to reconsider.
The “Justice for John Geer” Facebook page is here.
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Editorial: The unaccountable death of John Geer