Fairfax County Releases Update on John Geer Case
Jan. 5, 2015
Statement of Update
The Fairfax County Police Department reports that the Circuit Court of Fairfax County has determined that the department may release some information pertaining to the August 29, 2013, officer-involved shooting of John Geer, even while the investigations into the incident remain ongoing.
On August 29, 2013, Fairfax County police officers responded to a call by Geer’s domestic partner reporting a domestic dispute with Geer. Officers spoke to the complainant and Geer outside their residence. Geer was reported as having multiple firearms inside the home, displaying a firearm that he threatened to use against the police, and refused the officers’ requests that he remain outside and speak to them. Officers, including a trained negotiator, attempted to peaceably resolve the situation. They spoke with Geer for more than thirty minutes as he stood in the doorway of his home.
When Geer began lowering his hands at one point during the negotiations, PFC Adam Torres fired a single shot that struck Geer. Geer immediately retreated inside the home and shut the front door. Geer did not answer the officers’ calls and offers of medical aid. A SWAT Team and a hostage rescue vehicle were used to effectuate a safe approach and entry into the home. Once inside, the SWAT officers, who were accompanied by a tactical paramedic, found Geer deceased. A loaded, holstered firearm was recovered on the landing of the stairs to Geer’s left where he had stood in the doorway and seven more firearms were recovered inside the home.
This matter is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice and an internal, administrative investigation by the Police Department. Officer Torres, who has been employed by the Police Department for eight years, was placed on administrative duty following the incident and remains so pending the outcome of the criminal and administrative investigations.
Chairman Sharon Bulova's Statement
On behalf of the Board of Supervisors, I would like to express my
deepest sympathy to the family and friends of John Geer. Any untimely
death is a tragedy, and our Board continues to be extremely frustrated
and disappointed with the amount of time it has taken for this
investigation to come to a resolution.
I am pleased that the information and details we are releasing today are now available to the public. This breaks the logjam that has prevented the sharing of information that the public and the Geer family have been requesting. In the Geer case, there are three separate investigations and a civil lawsuit. The County has policies in place to avoid interfering with and jeopardizing open criminal and civil cases. The court order resolves staff concerns regarding what could and could not be shared.
This is an unusual and complicated situation for Fairfax County. Our current policies regarding a police involved shooting do not address the unique situation where the Commonwealth’s Attorney refers a case to federal investigators. Our Board will thoroughly review these policies to make sure we are consistently responsive and transparent with regard to police incidents and public safety concerns.
In Fairfax County, we have worked very hard to build trust within the community, especially with the Police Department, and our policies must reflect this.
Statistically, Fairfax County is the safest jurisdiction of its size in the United States and I am very proud of our public safety professionals who help to make that happen. In Fairfax County, our police officers enjoy a strong and positive partnership with the community they serve and protect. Each of our eight Police Districts has a Citizens Advisory Committee that meets regularly. At these meetings, residents of the area have the opportunity to learn of safety issues in their community and share information that is of concern to them. Additionally, the County's Neighborhood Watch programs operate with strong support from and collaboration with our Police Department. All of our Fairfax County high schools and middle schools benefit from specifically trained School Resource Officers.
As Chairman, I have made it a point to ride throughout the County with the Police Chief on National Night Out and I can tell you that the community's trust and appreciation of our police officers is enormous. Most recently, Chief Roessler established a Police Department Diversity Council, consisting of representatives of our County's minority populations, to help ensure law enforcement's sensitivity to the many cultural differences that exist within our community.
The unique positive relationship that our Police Department has established with the community they serve is significant. This has helped to foster trust of public safety and is a major factor in keeping our crime rate extraordinarily low. While this has been a unique and complicated set of circumstances, our Board is committed to making sure Fairfax County policies will not result in delays should similar situations arise in the future.
Fairfax County has provided all information and materials requested in order for these investigations to move forward. We join with the Geer family and the community in urging a fair and timely resolution.