Fairfax police chief responds to Iraq vet’s complaint

WASHINGTON — Fairfax County police officers acted “safely and lawfully” when confronting a sleeping Iraq War veteran with guns drawn, Chief Edwin Roessler has determined.

The June 14 encounter came after a man called 911 to report a squatter in the model unit of an Alexandria apartment building.

“I’m just concerned about squatters using this as a routine place to squat and then breaking into my office when I’m not here,” the unidentified caller said, according to a recording of the 911 call provided by police.

But Alex Horton had permission to stay in the model unit while his was being repaired. The door was left slightly open, which led the caller to believe he had entered without authorization.

Horton’s subsequent op-ed in The Washington Post about the ensuing encounter compared the police response to raids he experienced in war.

He likened the police response with guns drawn to a “troubling approach to law enforcement nationwide.”

Roessler on Friday wrote to Horton to explain the results of the inquiry into his officers’ actions.

He wrote that they had tried to determine if the man in the model unit had permission to be there, but offices were closed and the security guard didn’t know Horton had been allowed to stay in the unit.

Police also knocked and announced themselves before entering the unlocked apartment, but Horton hadn’t come to the door.

That’s when they entered the apartment, with two officers holding their guns at what Roessler described as “the ready position.”

“Let me see your hands — don’t move,” one officer was quoted as saying as they entered the bedroom and performed a “protective sweep.”

Roessler says the department investigated the officers’ behavior after Horton filed a complaint the next day. The investigating officer found that the officers’ actions “were in compliance with all applicable rules, laws, and regulations.”

Horton’s Op-Ed prompted a second inquiry, which Roessler says determined that “the officers acted based on reasonable suspicion that a crime was occurring and took appropriate actions to safely resolve their investigation,” he writes. “I fully understand what you have articulated well about the officers’ tactics in this situation.”

He ended the letter by thanking Horton for his own service.

Fairfax County has faced its own share of scrutiny over its use of force policies since the death of John Geer, who was shot outside his Springfield home in 2013 by Officer Adam Torres. It took a lawsuit before police would release Torres’ name and prosecutors still have not decided whether he should face criminal charges.

The county announced Friday that Torres no longer works for the department.

Chief Roessler's Response Letter to Alex Horton

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