Date: September 11, 2016
State: Washington, D.C.
Officer: Brian Trainer
Charged: No criminal charges, officer fired from force,
Sterling's family reached $3.5 mil settlement
Terrence Sterling was riding his motorcycle in the early morning of September 11, 2016, in Washington D.C. Police received a call at 4:20 a.m. about a motorcycle driving recklessly through the streets, hitting speeds of 100 miles per hour and running red lights. Although Officers Brian Trainer and Jordan Palmer were told by superiors to not pursue the motorcycle, they ignored the commands. Eyewitness Howard Dorsey Jr. said he was stopped at a traffic light right next to Sterling when police blocked the vehicles at the intersection with their patrol car coming from the left side, which is against department rules. He says that Sterling tried to maneuver around the patrol car at speeds of approximately 5-10 miles per hour, leaning towards the lower end of the estimate, when Trainer opened his passenger door a couple of inches. Dorsey said the motorcycle hit the passenger door “just enough to make a dent and a tire mark,” and Trainer began shooting at Sterling. Dorsey ducked when he heard the shots, and when he came back up, he saw Sterling bleeding profusely on the sidewalk with the motorcycle on top of him. Sterling was struck in the neck and back, and police began to perform CPR. Terrence Sterling was pronounced dead at 4:55 a.m. An autopsy revealed that Sterling’s blood alcohol level was at twice the legal limit and he tested positive for marijuana. His family believes he was headed home from a party. He was 31 years old.
The D.C. Police Department conducted an internal review of the shooting. They ruled that Officer Brian Trainer shouldn’t have pulled his gun because he was not in danger when he shot Sterling, adding that the shooting was unjustified. They also said that Trainer failed to turn on his body camera before the shooting. Trainer and Palmer were placed on paid administrative leave during the duration of the internal review, but the department suggested that Trainer should be fired. Trainer’s attorney said that a panel of three officers hearing public testimony unanimously found his client guilty on all three charges he faced, which were excessive use of force, shooting at a moving vehicle, and failing to turn on his body camera. Panel members questioned why Trainer started to pull out his gun before the perceived threat and why he started to get out of the vehicle.
Brian Trainer said that he thought he and his partner were in danger when the motorcycle was headed towards the car, saying that his leg was trapped in the door when he began to shoot. Reports say his account of the story has been inconsistent. He said that he sustained injuries from his leg being trapped in the car door, but the detective said that his injuries on his knee were more consistent with those sustained from doing CPR on the sidewalk. There are questions over whether he called a police union representative before he called an ambulance because the union representative arrived within two minutes of the shooting. Trainer was fired from the department while his partner, Palmer, received a 20 day suspension. Terrence Sterling’s family reached a $3.5 million settlement with the city of Washington D.C.
Alexander, K. L. (2018, February 21). District reaches $3.5 million settlement with family of unarmed motorcyclist shot dead by police officer. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/dc-settles-with-family-of-fatally-shot-unarmed-motorcyclist-by-police-officer-for-35-million/2018/02/21/4a732138-159e-11e8-8b08-027a6ccb38eb_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.10951ada20b9
Delgadillo, N. (2018, December 21). Officer Involved In Death Of Terrence Sterling Is Under Investigation Again. Retrieved from https://dcist.com/story/18/12/21/officer-involved-in-death-of-terrence-sterling-is-under-investigation-again/
Goncalves, D., McCrary, S., & Olmos, D. (2017, June 29). Terrence Sterling: Unarmed & killed by police, his family speaks out. Retrieved from https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/local/fort-washington/terrence-sterling-unarmed-killed-by-police-his-family-speaks-out/65-453167664
Hermann, P., & Alexander, K. L. (2018, May 11). D.C. police panel upholds firing of officer who fatally shot motorcyclist in 2016. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/dc-police-panel-upholds-firing-of-officer-who-fatally-shot-motorcyclist-in-2016/2018/05/11/269e87ea-5390-11e8-9c91-7dab596e8252_story.html?utm_term=.a22d2c64e5fa
Segraves, M., & Cook, G. (2018, June 16). Officer Who Killed Terrence Sterling to Be Fired. Retrieved from https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Officer-Who-Killed-Terrence-Sterling-Fired-485701821.html