SIXTEEN MONTHS after a Fairfax County police officer shot John Geer to death on the threshold of his home, the police department has finally offered what it would like people to believe is a justification for the shooting. Yet the “information” provided by the police is so skeletal, so late and so jarringly at odds with other information that it serves only to further undermine the department’s credibility.
Under pressure from federal prosecutors and a state court, the police did — finally — divulge the name of the officer who shot Mr. Geer once in the chest, killing him. It is Adam D. Torres, an eight-year veteran of the force who is 31 years old.
Other information released by the department makes scant sense.
The police say the officer fired because Mr. Geer was “displaying a firearm that he threatened to use against the police.” Yet if, in fact, Mr. Geer did brandish a weapon, why did Officer Torres alone fire his weapon while several others on the scene did not? Why did Officer Torres fire just one bullet, when police are trained to fire multiple shots in the event they face a lethal threat?
And if Mr. Geer was shot because police saw him flash a weapon, why in the world would it take them 16 months to say so — to provide so basic a piece of information?
Moreover, the police said that they found a loaded gun inside the house, a few feet from the doorway where Mr. Geer was shot — but that the gun was holstered. Does that mean that the officer discharged his weapon because he glimpsed a holstered weapon? Did he ever see the weapon unholstered?
If Mr. Geer threatened police with a weapon, why did none of the other witnesses, including neighbors who watched the standoff, see a gun? Why would Mr. Geer’s father have said months ago that police told him Mr. Geer was unarmed when he was shot, an assertion that the police never denied?
Police officials had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to release the most bare-bones information, which should have been released within hours of Mr. Geer’s shooting. Now they offer dribs and drabs rather than a credible and full narrative of an event at Mr. Geer’s home that lasted more than a half-hour. Last month, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows ordered police to release information about the shooting to Mr. Geer’s family within 30 days. The information provided so far hardly counts as compliance.
Will it take further court orders, further subpoenas from the Justice Department and further pointed letters from Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the new head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to pry a full accounting from the police department? And will Fairfax’s elected officials continue to stand by as the department re-brands the county as a bastion of official arrogance?