IN BROAD daylight and at close range, three Fairfax County police officers saw a fourth officer, Adam Torres, shoot John Geer once in the chest in August 2013. Two other witnesses, Mr. Geer’s father and a friend, also saw it. All five of those witnesses agreed that Mr. Geer, who had a holstered handgun at his feet, had his hands up at the moment Officer Torres pulled the trigger.
Mr. Geer, a 46-year-old father of two, committed no known crime that day. He had been speaking calmly with the officers for almost three-quarters of an hour when the lethal shot was fired. He then bled to death just inside the doorway of his home.
That was more than 17 months ago, and still there has been no accounting for Mr. Geer’s death. No charges. No indictment. No prosecution. And no information until last week, when the police, complying with a judge’s order, finally released thousands of documents.
Those documents provide a stark picture: Only Officer Torres contended that Mr. Geer made a sudden movement as if going for a gun.
Everyone involved in this case has dropped the ball and dodged responsibility, enabling what now looks like a coverup in a case of police impunity.
The police, who did not seek medical treatment for Mr. Geer or retrieve his body for more than an hour, falsely claimed Mr. Geer had “barricaded” himself inside his house after he was shot, then stonewalled prosecutors and the public for months.
The top prosecutor in Fairfax, Ray Morrogh, punted the case to the feds over a supposed conflict of interest involving a courthouse shouting match between Officer Torres and a rank-and-file prosecutor. That seems a far-fetched reason not to pursue the case.
The feds — first the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, then the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division — sat on the case for months more, saying nothing.
Fairfax’s County’s governing body, the Board of Supervisors, seems incapable of getting its own employees — namely the police and the County Attorney’s office — to conduct themselves responsibly and transparently. The supervisors have managed nothing beyond tut-tutting that things don’t look quite right and calling for a review of policies.
The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Fairfax, one of the largest police departments in the nation, does not regard police-involved shootings as an “actual offense” and therefore does not report them to the FBI — part of a pattern among law enforcement agencies that results in no reliable statistics on the number of people police kill.
That mind-set seems to have infected virtually every agency in Fairfax, in addition to the feds, that should have stepped up to see that justice was done in the Geer case. The case should be presented to a jury, which can weigh Officer Torres’s account against those of other witnesses. The delay and obfuscation represent a travesty of justice.