DC police: Officer who shot Terrence Sterling wasn't following protocol, should be fired

An image from the body-cam footage in shooting death of Terrence Sterling released by MPD on Sept. 28, 2016. (D.C. police)

The Metropolitan Police Department's Use of Force Review Board determined the officer who fatally shot Terrence Sterling did not follow protocol and should be terminated, authorities announced on Tuesday.

Sterling, an unarmed black man, was fatally shot while racing through the District on a motorcycle in September 2016.

In August, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia determined the officer would not face charges for the fatal shooting.

According to authorities, two MPD officers were stopped at a red light at the intersection of 15th and U streets, NW, at around 4:20 a.m. on September 11, 2016, when Sterling, 31, pulled up briefly beside them on a motorcycle before accelerating through the red light at a "high rate of speed."

In an attempt to stop Sterling, the officers turned on their lights and siren, but police say Sterling didn't stop. Witnesses and officers say they observed Sterling "operating his motorcycle at excessive and dangerous speeds—sometimes estimated at 100 miles per hour or more."

After a brief pursuit, authorities say Sterling stopped at the intersection of Third and M streets, NW, and the officers pulled into the intersection, blocking the lane Sterling was stopped in.

When attempting to arrest Sterling, who was still on his motorcycle at the time, one officer "removed his firearm from the holster, and put it into a tuck position," before attempting to exit the passenger side of the police cruiser.

Police say during the arrest attempt, Sterling accelerated his motorcycle and rammed into the passenger side of the cruiser, injuring the officer. Then, police say, the officer fired two rounds at Sterling, striking him in his right side and neck.

The officers attempted to perform life-saving measures on Sterling, but were unsuccessful. Sterling was transported to Howard University Hospital, where he later died.

According to toxicology reports, Sterling's blood alcohol content level during the time of the incident was over two times the legal limit at .16. Police say he also tested positive for THC.

On September 28, 2016, D.C. police released body-camera footage of the fatal shooting.


On Tuesday, the following statements were released by family members and officials following the announcement by MPD's Use of Force Review Board announcement:

From the family of Terrence Sterling:

"Our family has continued to pray that the truth will come to light. We are encouraged by the Use of Force Review Board’s finding that Terrence’s killing was unjustified, which brings us one step closer to finding justice for Terrence’s death. We will continue to stay in prayer that Brian Trainer is never in a position to take someone else’s life and cause another family the pain we feel every single day," Isaac Sterling said.

From Lawyer Jason Downs, a partner of Downs Collins, P.A.:

"The Use of Force Review Board’s finding is in line with what we have said from the beginning of this case – Brian Trainer unlawfully executed Terrence Sterling and this shooting was completely unjustified. The next question is whether the District of Columbia will continue to incredulously claim, in a court of law, that this shooting was justified."

Statement released by D.C. Councilmember Kenya R. McDuffie in Ward 5:

"The death of Terrance Sterling was a devastating tragedy. My thoughts remain with his family and friends. At the time of Mr. Sterling's death, I chaired the Council's Committee on the Judiciary and reached out to the Metropolitan Police Department asking them to provide the public with more information on the status of the shooting investigation.
As I have always maintained, transparency and accountability are critical to community-police relations. In fact, we have seen many cases of national significance where a lack of information has led to widespread community outrage about an officer's use of deadly force.
So while I am heartened to see that the internal review process has come to an end, the length of time it has taken to reach a resolution is troubling. We must continue to ensure that our residents have full confidence in the integrity of our police department.
Today, I am pleased that the Department has taken steps to fully ensure that there is accountability for the officer's actions in this case and provide Mr. Sterling family with some measure of closure."
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