Wrong man stunned in Fairfax County police assault case

The Fairfax County Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, is seen. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

Prosecutors in Fairfax County, Virginia, told a judge on Tuesday that Officer Tyler Timberlake, who has been charged with assault and battery after using his stun gun last week, shocked a man he mistakenly thought he recognized.

Timberlake’s lawyer said the police officer believed the man he stunned was someone who he knew had a criminal past.

Video shows Timberlake, who is white, using a stun gun on a black man, who was disoriented and did not appear combative, last Friday in Mount Vernon.

Timberlake was not present during a brief hearing in Fairfax County District Court.

Defense attorney Brandon Shapiro told the judge that Timberlake, who was charged Saturday with three misdemeanor counts of assault and battery, has no history of previous incidents.

Shapiro said the video “has been published all over the national media,” and the rush to charge the officer, and the national attention the case has garnered, is jeopardizing his right to a fair trial.

Shapiro asked the judge to order prosecutors to turn over other video recorded before, during and after the incident, including cruiser video and Timberlake’s body-worn camera.

The judge agreed, and ordered prosecutors to turn over the video by June 23.

The defense requested other evidence, including information from the central dispatch system, in which some officers said, “We need backup,” and asked the dispatch officers to “step it up.”

Shapiro told the judge the material could be exculpatory by providing an explanation of what was going on in Timberlake’s mind as he reached the scene.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Frank told the judge the officer’s calls to “step it up” came after Timberlake had already shocked the man at least once.

In the video, Timberlake is seen arriving on the scene and walking directly from his cruiser toward the man, who had declined requests from emergency personnel to get in an ambulance.

Immediately after using his stun gun, the officer is heard repeatedly addressing the man as “Anthony.” But the person Timberlake was on top of was not named Anthony.

“He mistook him for someone else,” Frank told District Court Judge Susan Stoney.

Shapiro said the man his client believed was Anthony, and the person he mistakenly shocked, both had extensive criminal records, including felonies.

“They’re saying this was an irrational act,” Shapiro said, adding that Timberlake’s belief of who he was dealing with “is important to the defense.”

But Frank disagreed: “A mistake on his part does not justify what he did.”

Timberlake was released on his own recognizance after he was arrested.

The man who was shocked was treated at a hospital and released.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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