WATCH: D.C. Officer Who Fatally Shot Unarmed Motorcyclist Was Not in Danger When he Pulled His Gun

The D.C. police officer who fatally shot an unarmed motorcyclist last year had no reason to pull his gun and was not in danger when he fired, police concluded in an internal investigation that contradicts the officer’s account.

The review, obtained by The Washington Post, showed that Officer Brian Trainer and his partner, Officer Jordan Palmer, violated department policies early on Sept. 11, 2016, as they pursued and attempted to arrest 31-year-old motorcyclist Terrence Sterling.

After the officers spotted Sterling, who police said was speeding and running red lights, they tracked him through the city and eventually pulled their marked cruiser into an intersection ahead of the biker. Trainer, the passenger, was getting out as Sterling rode forward and the motorcycle struck the car door. Trainer then fired his gun twice, striking Sterling in the neck and back.

Trainer, 28, told police he had heard the bike revving before it came “violently” toward him and pinned his leg between the door and the car, according to the internal police report. He said he fired because he feared for his safety, as well as Palmer’s.

But after re-creating the incident and examining Trainer’s injuries, which the report described as superficial, police said they determined the officer’s leg had been struck by the car door but was never pinned.

The 34-page report also concluded that Sterling was trying to maneuver around the cruiser, not ram it. And investigators noted that Trainer told them that, other than Sterling’s reckless driving, he did not have any reason to think the motorcyclist may have been “armed and dangerous.”

Trainer’s decision to shoot “was not in defense of his life, nor was it in defense of the lives of others,” according to the report.

Trainer, who has been on the force since 2012, is on paid administrative leave. He did not return calls for comment. Palmer could not be reached for comment.

The shooting of Sterling at Third and M streets NW prompted protests and immediately raised questions about the officers’ conduct. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) ordered Trainer’s name made public soon after the incident, breaking with long-standing policy, and authorities revealed that the officer had failed to turn on his body-worn camera before the shooting. In August, federal prosecutors who investigated the shooting determined there was not enough evidence to file criminal charges against Trainer.

The internal review by the department said there were numerous lapses and judged the shooting “unjustified.” Police officials have recommended Trainer be fired. If the officer challenges that finding, a public tribunal could occur early next year.

Three officials with knowledge of the case have said that Palmer, who has been on the force for nearly four years, was suspended for 20 days for administrative infractions, including engaging in an unauthorized pursuit.

The internal affairs report is the most detailed account of the shooting to date.

Jason Downs, an attorney for the Sterling family, said it bolsters the family’s contention that there was no reason for police to shoot the motorcyclist.

The internal investigation’s “findings with regard to lack of provocation and lack of injury to Officer Trainer are completely consistent to what the witnesses have said from the beginning and what the family has known to be true for the beginning,” Downs said.

Sterling’s family has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the officers and the city.

Dustin Sternbeck, the chief spokesman for D.C. police, declined to comment on the internal report.

As part of their review, police investigators considered statements by Trainer and Palmer. The investigators also reviewed statements from nine civilian witnesses and six officers who arrived after the shooting.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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