John Geer shooting: Adam Torres indicted on 2nd-degree murder charge

A former Fairfax County police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man as he stood inside his front door with his hands up in 2013 was indicted Monday on a second-degree murder charge, authorities said.

Torres, an officer since 2006, was fired in July

Former Fairfax County police officer Adam Torres is shown in this Fairfax County Police Department photo released on Monday. (Fairfax County Police Dept./Reuters)

A former Fairfax County police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man as he stood inside his front door with his hands up in 2013 was indicted Monday on a second-degree murder charge, authorities said.

A special grand jury convened by Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond Morrogh returned the indictment against Adam Torres, 32, in the shooting death of John Geer of Springfield.

Torres fatally shot Geer, 46, in August 2013 after a report of a domestic dispute. Witnesses, including other officers, said Geer was unarmed and had his hands up when he was shot. Torres told investigators he thought Geer might have a weapon hidden in his waist.

Michael Lieberman, an attorney for Geer's family, said the indictment is "a substantial step toward justice for John Geer. A Fairfax County jury will now be able to determine what's fair and just, which is all the family wanted."

Lieberman said he considered the charge appropriate for what he called an intentional shooting.

Police said Torres, who had been an officer since 2006, was fired on July 31. Police said Monday night that Torres turned himself in and is being held without bond in the county jail.

His lawyer did not return a call for comment.

John Geer, 46, was fatally shot in 2013 in an unusual confrontation, leading to the largest civil settlement in state history in connection with a police shooting. (Jeff Stewart/Washington Post)
Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. said in a statement, "We have great respect for the Special Grand Jury process, the Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney for Fairfax County, and the criminal justice system as this matter proceeds."

The chief's statement continued: "The loss of life is tragic for all. We express our sympathy to the Geer family, support to our great community and the men and women of the Fairfax County Police Department."

The charges came two years after the shooting, and Fairfax County faced intense criticism during that time for a lack of transparency about its investigation. U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, questioned county officials about their actions.

Grand juries and police shootings

At one point, Morrogh asked federal authorities to investigate the case, because the county's own lawyers advised police against turning over records sought by Morrogh. Police did not identify Torres as the shooter until after the family filed a civil lawsuit, and a judge ordered the county to turn over portions of its investigative files. Those documents showed that months before the Geer shooting, Torres had an angry "meltdown" during an incident at the county courthouse in which Torres cursed at a prosecutor and stormed out.

In April, the county agreed to settle the civil lawsuit for nearly $3 million US, the largest in Virginia history in connection with a police shooting.

Research released last year from a Bowling Green State University study indicated that just 41 police officers were charged with murder or manslaughter between 2004 and 2011 for on-duty killings, a period in which 2,718 deaths were classified by the FBI as justifiable homicides.

Grand juries ruled against charges for police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York City last year, leading to widespread protests.

The death of teen Tony Robinson in Wisconsin also did not lead to charges, but that decision was made by the state Department of Justice, per a state law law that requires outside agencies to lead probes into officer-involved deaths.

California Gov. Jerry Brown last week signed into law a bill that would prevent the use of closed grand juries for officer-involved shootings because of the suspicion and contention the process has engendered. The decision to lay charges will rest with district attorneys, as already happens in Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties.

With files from CBC News

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