Sixteen months after a Fairfax County police officer shot and killed a Springfield man, officials for the first time Monday identified the officer as Adam D. Torres, and made a new claim that the man had a loaded gun nearby and threatened to use it.
The longtime partner of John B. Geer, 46, had called police on Aug. 29, 2013, after she told him she was leaving him and he responded by throwing her belongings out of their house. In a statement released Monday, police said they were told Geer not only had “multiple firearms” inside the townhouse but also that he was “displaying a firearm that he threatened to use against the police.” That statement contradicts previous witness accounts that Geer was unarmed when he was shot.
The attorney for Geer’s family, Michael Lieberman, strongly disputed the claim that Geer displayed a gun and threatened to use it. “I’ve never heard of him displaying any firearm at the police and I have no reason to believe he did,” Lieberman said. Don Geer, John Geer’s father, said he was told by police that his son was unarmed when he was shot.
Fairfax police declined to answer any questions about the statement or clarify when Geer displayed or threatened to use a gun. The handgun found inside the house was loaded and holstered, the statement said.
Fairfax officials did not notify Geer’s family or their lawyers that they planned to release the officer’s name and new details about the case, Lieberman said.
The statement also said that Geer refused officers’ requests to stay outside and speak with them, and that “a trained negotiator” tried to resolve the confrontation. But when Geer began lowering his hands from the top of his storm door after more than 30 minutes of discussions, “PFC Adam Torres fired a single shot that struck Geer.”
The statement said “Geer did not answer the officers’ calls and offers of medical aid.” Police waited for an hour — and for the arrival of a SWAT team and a hostage rescue vehicle — before entering Geer’s home, where he was found dead.
Fairfax said that “a loaded, holstered firearm was recovered on the landing of the stairs to Geer’s left where he had stood in the doorway and seven more firearms were recovered inside the home.”
Lieberman said he had never heard of a negotiator speaking with Geer and that the seven other guns in the house were in a locked safe.
Police said Torres is an eight-year veteran of the department and assigned as a patrol officer to the West Springfield district, but they declined to release his age. He has been on administrative duties since the shooting.
Torres could not be immediately located for comment. He has not been involved previously in any fatal police shootings in Fairfax.
The investigation of whether Torres should be charged with a crime was handled for four months by the Fairfax commonwealth’s attorney, who transferred the case in January 2014 to the U.S. attorney in Alexandria. Federal officials are considering whether to file civil rights charges in the case, but Fairfax Board Chairman Sharon Bulova said Monday she had no indication when that might be.
County officials said they felt the information release was appropriate after a Fairfax judge in the Geer family’s civil lawsuit against Fairfax last month ordered a vast amount of pretrial discovery to be released to the family. Before that, the police had refused to disclose Torres’s name or anything about him, or any details about why Torres might have shot Geer.
Bulova said county officials were frustrated by their inability to release information, but abided by policies that had worked in previous police shootings: to wait for a ruling on whether a crime was committed before discussing a case. But she said after 16 months, and the ruling in the civil case by Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows, she met Monday with Fairfax Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. and both felt the time was right to release the information.
Bulova said the timing was unrelated to a planned protest outside the Fairfax police headquarters Thursday by a group called Justice for John Geer, which recently formed to demand information about the shooting.
“This has just been an unusual situation,” Bulova said. “It was bumped up to the federal level for, I think, multiple reasons. And we were sort of left in limbo.”
Bulova said she did not know when the county’s lawyers would comply with Bellows’s order to release documents and other evidence to Geer’s family, but she said Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh did not object to the release. Bellows gave the county 30 days to provide the information.
Lieberman also said he did not know how or when he would receive the information. He said Monday’s statement appeared to be “damage control. To try to show they have some sense of transparency. A little late, I would say.”