John B. Geer, 46, was standing in the doorway of his Springfield townhouse on Aug. 29, 2013, when he was shot dead by Officer Adam D. Torres. Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh has subpoenaed about 20 witnesses to appear before a special grand jury which will decide whether to indict Torres, including police officers who saw the shooting, Geer’s longtime girlfriend Maura Harrington, and their 19-year-old daughter Haylea Geer.
Haylea Geer did not witness the shooting, which occurred after a 42-minute standoff between Geer and the police. But she did see Geer’s behavior prior to the police arrival, when Geer was tossing Harrington’s belongings out of the house, police reports show. And reports show she also told detectives immediately after the shooting that her father could be abusive when drinking and had once put a gun to her mother’s head, which Harrington said was false.
Harrington and her attorney, Michael Lieberman, were outraged that Haylea Geer was subpoenaed to testify, and Lieberman sent a letter to Morrogh asking that he reconsider. Morrogh responded with a letter Thursday saying that Haylea Geer would not have to appear when the grand jury begins hearing testimony Monday, so long as she was available on another date if the grand jurors themselves request her.
“The grand jury, itself,” Morrogh wrote, “can subpoena any person who they deem necessary to their deliberations. At the outset, it is my duty to begin the process by issuing subpoenas to the primary witnesses to the events in question. I have done so. At this point I cannot anticipate what the scope of the grand jury investigation will be.”
Morrogh wrote that he could not recall the subpoena to Haylea Geer, but would not ask her to testify, though the grand jury still might.
Lieberman said he was glad to learn of Morrogh’s decision. “We appreciate the courtesy,” Lieberman said, “and we don’t think she should ever have to appear. She did not see the incident where Torres intentionally shot her father.”
John Geer, having learned that Harrington was moving out of their Springfield home of 24 years, had begun throwing her belongings outside while their two daughters, then 17 and 12, watched and then called their mother. Harrington returned home from work and when Geer continued to toss her items around, she called 911. Torres and Officer David Neil responded, Geer retreated behind his screen door and, according to Torres, showed the officers a holstered pistol. Neil and Torres drew their weapons, and soon Officer Rodney Barnes arrived and began a 40-minute conversation with Geer before Torres suddenly fired one round into Geer’s chest.
Police reports show Torres claimed that Geer had suddenly jerked his hands to his waist. Barnes and three other officers, plus Geer’s father and best friend, all said Geer had his hands near his head, their statements show.
“John stood there for 45 minutes with his hands above his head,” Lieberman said, “speaking calmly with Officer Barnes, saying he didn’t want to die that day and then he was shot in the chest. Haylea doesn’t have anything to add to that…It is not the job of a prosecutor to put on a witness that is helpful to the defense. And hopefully, that’s not where they’re going.”
Morrogh declined to comment on the letter Thursday. Torres remains on the force, on desk duty, and has not faced any internal discipline either, though an internal affairs investigation began in September 2014. Fairfax settled the family’s civil suit in April for $2.95 million.