Prosecutor: DC officer won’t face charges in fatal shooting of motorcyclist

WASHINGTON — A D.C. police officer who shot and killed a black motorcyclist last fall will not face any criminal charges, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. said that there was not enough evidence to prove that Officer Brian Trainer violated the rights of 31-year-old Terrence Sterling of Fort Washington, Maryland, by using more force than was necessary or that Trainer was not acting in self defense.

Sterling, who led police on a chase and sideswiped a police cruiser, was shot in the side and neck in the early morning hours of Sept. 11, 2016, at the intersection of 3rd and M streets Northwest.

D.C. police said in a statement that it will conduct an administrative review of the shooting and will submit the results to the department’s Use of Force Review Board to determine if any departmental rules or polices were violated.

In a statement, Mayor Muriel Bowser said the police department has asked for Trainer’s resignation.

“Without accountability in this case, we break trust with our community — rendering the District and MPD less safe and less strong. I do not believe there can be real accountability if the officer remains on the force,” Bowser’s statement reads.

Trainer remains on administrative leave.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Sterling was riding a motorcycle westbound on U Street around 4:20 a.m. on Sept. 11 when he drove alongside a police cruiser occupied by Trainer and his partner, who was the driver. Sterling pulled in front of the police vehicle and sped through a red light.

A chase ensued, covering 25 city blocks, federal officials said. Sterling allegedly drove 100 mph or more, while narrowly missing pedestrians and cars.

A D.C. police officer reported seeing the motorcycle in the area of 11th and U streets speeding through red lights.

After losing sight of him, Trainer and his partner caught up with Sterling on 3rd Street when they heard the sound of a motorcycle revving. The officers blocked the motorcycle at the intersection, facing it head on. Trainer took out his gun and pointed it downward toward his own body and opened the passenger door to get out.

Sterling accelerated toward the passenger side, crashing into the door. Trainer had not yet exited the vehicle completely and he fired two rounds at Sterling through the front passenger window, hitting Sterling.

Trainer, who has worked for D.C. police for four years, was the only officer on the scene equipped with a body-worn camera and did not turn it on until after the shooting. D.C. police released footage after protesters called for more transparency in the case.

Sterling’s blood alcohol content was 0.16, two times over the limit, and he also tested positive for THC, an active ingredient in marijuana, according to toxicology results.

Sterling’s family filed a $50 million wrongful-death suit against D.C. and the police department in December.

The September shooting led to sustained protests and attracted national attention from activists concerned about police brutality. Sterling was a heating and air-conditioning technician from Fort Washington, Maryland.

Steven Douglass, a youth minister who knew Sterling and organized protests, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that decision not to prosecute is a “smack in the face.”

“The community doesn’t feel safe,” he said. “We now walk around with murderers who we pay with our tax dollars to protect and serve. We will protest and let it be known that we as a community will not be accepting this decision.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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