Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is continuing his quest to break the silence surrounding the August 2013 Fairfax County police killing of John Geer in Springfield. After sending letters last month to the Fairfax police chief and the U.S. attorney in Alexandria, Grassley has now sent a letter to Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh, asking if the Fairfax police refused to cooperate with his investigation and why he referred the case to the U.S. attorney.
The full letter is below.
Geer, 46, was shot after a 50-minute stand-off with at least two Fairfax officers, as he stood unarmed in the doorway of his townhouse with his hands above his head on the storm door. One officer fired one shot into Geer’s chest, police and witnesses said, and police then waited an hour before rendering aid. The police said in their response to Grassley that Geer had seven long guns and a handgun in his home, though his longtime partner, Maura Harrington, said the long guns were all locked away.
The officer’s name, age, length of service and assignment all have been withheld by Fairfax authorities. No ruling has been made on whether the shooting was justifiable. After four months, Morrogh referred the case to U.S. Attorney Dana Boente in Alexandria, saying he had a “conflict of interest.” In November, Boente’s office wrapped up its investigation and shipped the case to the Justice Department’s civil rights division, which will decide whether criminal charges should be filed.
Grassley said Thursday that “the more answers we receive, the more questions there are.” He said there were conflicting reports on why Morrogh referred the case to the feds and that doing so “raises important questions about the sphere of charges that could be brought following an investigation, and whether possible violations of state law will ever be investigated.”
Both the police and the Justice Department responded to letters from Grassley, mainly saying that they could not provide details of the case while it was still under investigation, and that they could not say when the investigation would conclude. The Justice Department letter indicated that part of the delay, with the shooting now nearly 16 months old, occurred when Fairfax attorneys “withheld materials” and that there were “a number of challenges in investigating this case.”
“Did FCPD ever refuse to provide to your office,” Grassley wrote, “any information, documents or evidence pertaining to this case — including the personnel file or the internal affairs file of the officer who allegedly shot John Geer?” Grassley also asked Morrogh if he had tried to refer the case to the Virginia attorney general or another county prosecutor, and what conflict of interest caused him to move the case to the feds.
Morrogh said Tuesday he was traveling and had not seen the letter. He has declined to comment on the case throughout, first while he was investigating it and then after he referred it to the U.S. attorney. In previous fatal police shootings in Fairfax, Morrogh or his predecessor have issued rulings within about three months and then provided explanations for their actions. No Fairfax County police officer has ever faced criminal charges for a shooting in the line of duty in the department’s 74-year history.