Virginia’s Fairfax County Settles Police Shooting Lawsuit for $3M

By | April 23, 2015

Virginia’s Fairfax County agreed Tuesday to pay nearly $3 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit after one of its police officers shot and killed a man in the doorway of his home two years ago.

Officer Adam Torres fatally shot John Geer, 46, of Springfield in August 2013 after a report of a domestic dispute. Witnesses, including other officers, said Geer was unarmed and had his hands up when he was shot.

Michael Lieberman, attorney for the Geer family, said he believes the $2.95 million settlement is the largest in Virginia history in connection with a police shooting. The settlement contains no admission of liability on the county’s part, and it does not impose any policy changes on the police department. But backlash over the shooting has already prompted the county to establish a commission that is reviewing police procedures, including those relating to use of force and releasing information to the public.

County attorneys were accused of stonewalling an investigation of the shooting. When the county refused to turn over Torres’ internal affairs records to Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh, he referred the criminal investigation to federal prosecutors, who are still weighing whether to file criminal charges against Torres.

Those internal records, released after a judge ordered the county to do so as part of the lawsuit, showed that months before the Geer shooting, Torres had an angry “meltdown” during an incident at the county courthouse. During that incident, Torres cursed at a prosecutor and stormed out, according to the documents.

Geer’s family, including girlfriend Maura Harrington, filed the lawsuit against the county.

“No family should have to fight for 18 months, like the Geer family was forced to, in order to learn basic facts about the police shooting of a loved one, and the public deserves a government that is transparent and accountable,” Lieberman and his law partner, Ben DiMuro, said in a written statement issued Tuesday.

Lieberman and DiMuro urged that prosecutors arrest and charge Torres, who remains on the police payroll.

“It is the family’s opinion, as well as those who know the facts of John’s shooting, that there is little doubt that Officer Torres should be charged and tried,” they said in their statement.

The county said in a statement Tuesday that its insurance will cover the settlement. [The Fairfax County government said in a statement that the county’s self-insured retention from the insurance fund covers the first $1 million of the settlement, and excess insurance covers the remaining balance. The Fairfax County’s excess police professional liability insurance is through the Virginia Association of Counties Group Self-Insurance Risk Pool (VACoRP).] A county spokesman declined to answer questions.

Topics Lawsuits Law Enforcement Virginia

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