D.C. police released graphic body camera video Tuesday showing the aftermath of the fatal police shooting of a motorcyclist this month and named the officer who fired.
Terrence Sterling, 31, of Fort Washington, Md., was shot on the morning of Sept. 11 after police said he intentionally drove his motorcycle into a police cruiser.
The officer who fired his weapon was identified as Brian Trainer, 27, who has been with the department for four years. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser released Trainer’s name in a departure from police policy.
City officials have generally declined to identify officers involved in shootings. But Kevin Donahue, the District’s Deputy Mayor of Public Safety, said city officials are seeking to be open about the investigation as a way to encourage other witnesses to come forward. He said some residents questioned the city’s account that the officer failed to activate his body camera until after the shooting. Donohue said the camera was turned on between one and three minutes later.
“We did this because while the video does not capture the incident itself, there have been questions from members of the public to validate what we have. We have camera footage from a camera that was activated after the shooting took place,” Donahue said.
As the approximately five-minute video begins, Sterling is on the ground, still straddling his fallen green-and-black motorcycle. The images show the officers administering first aid.
Off camera, a female bystander is heard screaming: “Oh my God. Oh my God. He didn’t do anything? Are you serious? He’s not moving.”
The video shows Trainer going into the squad car and removing what appears to be a CPR or first-aid kit. One officer then removed Sterling’s white helmet and began performing compressions on Sterling’s chest.
“C’mon man. C’mon. Keep breathing,” the officer yells.
“Look at me. Look at me. Keep looking at me, bud. Keep looking at me,” an officer pleaded. “Open your eyes. Keep looking at me. Keep looking at me. There you go. Open them up, bud. Keep them open, buddy.”
The incident began about 4:20 a.m. when officers got a call about a motorcycle driving erratically in the Adams Morgan area. Later, police saw the motorcycle near Third and M streets in Northwest. Police have said that Trainer was trying to exit the passenger’s side of the marked cruiser to stop Sterling. But at that point, according to police, Sterling drove the motorcycle into the passenger door and Trainer fired his weapon.
The case is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Trainer could not be reached for comment.
The video was shown to Sterling’s family early Tuesday, hours before it was released to the public.
Jason Downs, an attorney for the Sterling family, said Sterling’s parents were “in shock.”
“It was a hard morning. They saw Mr. Sterling’s blood leaking from him,” Downs said.
Downs said the video raised multiple questions in addition to why the camera was not turned on when officers first responded. He said the family’s attorneys want to know the names of all the officers at the scene, what time they arrived and what time police called for paramedics.
Downs, an attorney with Murphy, Falcon & Murphy — the firm that represented the family of Freddie Gray, the Baltimore man who died in April 2015 after being injured while in police custody — said they hope to have experts examine any damage to the squad car and the motorcycle. Downs is also waiting for the autopsy to show how many times Sterling was shot and from what distance, and the toxicology report on Sterling.
Hours after the officer’s name was released, Matthew N. Mahl, chairman of the D.C. police union, distributed a message to his members saying he “strongly condemned” the mayor’s decision to identify the officer. He said that releasing the names of officers in such cases “places the officers in danger of misguided retaliation.”
Donahue defended the city’s decision and said such calls will be made on a case-by-case basis in the future. He noted that other jurisdictions have released the names of officers in police shootings.
“We take very seriously disclosure of any information typically considered confidential, such as the name of an officer,” Donahue said. “We try to be as transparent as we can reasonably be while keeping in mind that the public’s expectation of transparency is evolving and expanding.”
In the days since Sterling’s death, friends and others have demanded more details from police. On Monday and Tuesday, dozens of people held demonstrations.
Tuesday, minutes before a march began, a small group of demonstrators huddled around Brendan Orsinger as he displayed the video on his phone.
“It’s all after the fact . . . nobody wants to see the aftereffect. We want to see what happened,” said Griffin Smith, 34, a freelance photographer.
Officials have not identified Trainer’s partner, who was driving the cruiser. Both officers have been put on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure.
After Sterling’s shooting, police updated the department’s policy on body cameras, and officers now are required to confirm with dispatchers that their cameras are on when they respond to calls.