Long, cold silences and stonewalling basic attempts for information have been the biggest keynotes in the “Justice for John Geer” case centered in Fairfax County, Virginia. A special grand jury has indicted the officer responsible in Geer’s death on second-degree murder charges. The department has issued a statement (below).
You may recall that he was the law abiding father of two who was ordered by police to keep his hands at the top of his front doorway post. They were there for a mild, non-violent domestic dispute on the morning of August 29, 2013, until the situation escalated into what appeared to be a stand-off. He had his hands up – unarmed – for 42 minutes during discussions when a previously unidentified officer inexplicably shot him through the chest. The officer had claimed that Geer quickly reached for his waistband, but witness accounts including other officers later countered that claim. His family had seen it unfold in horror and begged the department for medical help to no avail. Department reports indicated that he died on the spot. A destructive raid ensued, possessions were taken and there were few answers after that.
That is until the family pursued it in court. Not only that, but an activist group called “Justice for John Geer” worked tirelessly to peacefully press the department and raise awareness on this unjustified shooting, the lack of accountability, and lack of answers. They inspired support and other peaceful demonstrations. To top it off, a Washington Post writer named Tom Jackman has written an account of every detail of the case since the beginning. Jackman showcased the all the unanswered questions. Had none of these people acted, the case would most likely remain conveniently buried.
Thanks to the court case started by Geer’s long-time partner Maura Harrington and her attorney, Fairfax county paid the family a settlement of $2.9 million dollars from two of its insurance funds. The largest in Virginia’s history for officer-involved shooting. Of course it doesn’t replace John and it was made utterly clear that the settlement was not an admission of guilt or liability from the department and county.
During the time after the incident, Adam Torres, the officer now known to have shot Geer had been placed on desk duty. He had been asked by detectives if he had fired by accident, as by most accounts Geers hands had slowly lowered to ear length, at the most. Torres adhered to the “hands quickly at the waistband” story and said,
It was not accidental. No, it was justified. I have no doubt about that at all. I don’t feel sorry for shooting the guy at all.
Last December, a Fairfax county judge ordered the release of nearly all information regarding the case, including videos and the responsible officer’s name. A commission began investigating. On July 31st, Torres was fired. Yesterday, he was indicted by a special grand jury – the first indictment in the county for an on-duty shooting.
UPDATE: This evening, Monday, August 17, former Fairfax County police officer, Mr. Adam Torres, was charged with the second-degree murder of John Geer, following an indictment returned by a special grand jury convened in the case. Mr. Torres turned himself in to detectives from the Major Crimes Division this evening and was subsequently brought to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center, where he is being held on no bond.
The Fairfax County Police Chief, Colonel Ed Roessler, discussed the case with media at the Fairfax County Government Center this evening, along with Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Sharon Bulova. Both Chief Roessler and Chairman Bulova expressed respect for the criminal justice process.
We have great respect for the Special Grand Jury process, the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Fairfax County, and the criminal justice system as this matter proceeds. The loss of life is tragic for all. We express our sympathy to the Geer family, support to our great community and the men and women of the Fairfax County Police Department.
The officer is expected to be arraigned in Circuit Court as soon as Wednesday.
Officers are rarely indicted. A recent report indicates that only 54 officers have faced charges out of thousands of fatal shootings.
Is there finally justice for John Geer?