Fairfax Co., Geer family reach settlement in wrongful death suit

WASHINGTON — The family members of a Springfield man who was shot and killed in the doorway to his home by a Fairfax County police officer are calling for that officer to be criminally charged.

Fairfax County and the family of John Geer announced Tuesday that they had reached a $2.95 million settlement to end the family’s wrongful death suit almost two years after Geer was killed at his home. Geer’s longtime partner Maura Harrington brought the suit, which will benefit Geer’s two teenage daughters.

But Geer’s father, Don Geer, tells WTOP that the settlement is just the first step in seeking justice for his son. He wants the officer, Adam Torres, prosecuted.

“Torres, the shooter, is still on the payroll. There’s been no charges made,” Geer says. “There’s no question in anybody’s mind that he’s guilty of an unlawful shooting.”

The family waited 17 months before they even knew the name of the officer who shot John Geer, his father says.

In December, a judge ordered the county to release a host of investigative documents and information, including the names of the officers involved, as part of the family’s fight to find out basic details about what happened that day. Torres’ name wasn’t released until January.

Police were called to Geer’s home for a report of a domestic dispute on Aug. 29, 2013. Officers spoke with Geer in his doorway for about 30 minutes before the shooting. Police have said that he refused to remain outside, “displayed” one of the several guns he kept in the house and made threats toward officers. Witnesses have said that Geer was unarmed and that his hands were raised.

“It’s taken this long to get anything done. It’s been very trying and you want to get it over with,” Don Geer says of the decision to settle.

A statement from the family’s lawyers says the family opted to settle rather than face years of litigation. But they don’t consider the matter resolved.

‘While this chapter of the struggle for justice for John Geer ends, we hope that the next chapter will begin shortly,” the statement reads. “Officer Torres should be charged and tried for shooting John. With the facts now made public by Fairfax County, there is no longer any reason for further hesitation or delay in bringing this matter before a grand jury and then trial.”

The statement also says the family takes comfort that Geer’s death has highlighted the county’s use of force policies. And they hope the county will adopt policies that require an internal investigation to begin immediately following a police shooting and that details of what happened are shared with the victim’s family and the public.

The U.S. Department of Justice is now investigating the shooting. Fairfax County prosecutors turned the case over to federal investigators after the county’s attorney, a separate office, refused to provide internal affairs files on Torres.

The county attorney is set to retire next year — a decision prompted in part by his and his office’s handling of the Geer case. Public backlash over the way the case has been handled has also led to the creation of a commission to review the county’s police protocols.

Fairfax County’s self-insured retention from the insurance fund covers the first $1 million of the settlement. Excess insurance covers the remaining balance, according to a release from Fairfax County.

Michael Lieberman, attorney for the Geer family, told The Associated Press he believes the settlement is the largest in Virginia history in connection with a police shooting. The settlement contains no admission of liability on the county’s part.

WTOP’s Dick Uliano and Amanda Iacone contributed to this report.

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