Washington, DC – The Metropolitan Police Department’s (MPD) Use of Force Review Board determined that an officer “broke policy” when he shot a man who rammed a motorcycle into the side of his patrol car in 2016.
Terrence Sterling, 31, died in the altercation.
An earlier investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Officer Brian Trainer for Sterling’s death.
However, the review board recommended Officer Trainer’s termination from the MPD on Tuesday, WUSA reported.
MPD Chief Peter Newsham would not specify which policies the officer violated, nor how.
The incident occurred on Sep. 11, 2016, when the MPD received reports about someone riding a motorcycle erratically, WTTG reported.
At approximately 4:20 a.m., Officer Trainer and his partner were stopped at an intersection when a motorcycle rider, later identified as Sterling, pulled in front of the patrol car, WUSA reported.
Officer Trainer, who was a passenger in the vehicle, said that Sterling glanced back at the cruiser, and then bolted through the red light.
Officers activated their lights and siren, and pursued Sterling, who refused to pull over.
Witnesses and police said Sterling was “operating his motorcycle at excessive and dangerous speeds – sometimes estimated at 100 miles per hour or more,” WJLA reported.
The officers were eventually able to position their cruiser in an intersection, and block Sterling’s path of travel.
As Officer Trainer prepared to exit the vehicle to arrest Sterling, he “removed his firearm from the holster, and put it into a tuck position,” WJLA reported.
But when Officer Trainer began to step out of the patrol car, Sterling “revved his motorcycle and then accelerated,” and rammed his motorcycle into the passenger door of the cruiser, The Washington Post reported.
According to prosecutors, “the impact caused by the advancing motorcycle caused a dent in the cruiser’s open door and a bruise to the officer’s knee.”
When Officer Trainer felt the impact, he fired two rounds through the front window of the patrol car, and struck Sterling both in his neck and in the right side of his torso.
Bodycam footage released by the MPD showed officers as they attempted to perform life-saving measures on Sterling while waiting for medical personnel to arrive.
Sterling was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Toxicology reports showed Sterling had a blood alcohol content level of .16 at the time of the incident. He also tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, WJLA reported.
Anthony Dixon, Sterling’s former employer, told WTTG that Sterling had attended a bachelor party prior to his encounter with officers.
Officer Trainer’s actions were immediately clouded in controversy, due in part to MPD protocol that forbids officers from pursuing vehicles for traffic violations.
However, Officer Trainer was not the one who drove the police cruiser.
He has also been demonized because his bodycam was not activated until after the shooting had occurred.
In August, the U.S. Attorney’s Office concluded that there was not enough evidence to support allegations that Officer Trainer had “violated Mr. Sterling’s civil rights by using more force than was reasonably necessary, had the necessary criminal intent when he shot Mr. Sterling, or was not acting in self-defense,” WJLA reported.
As such, no criminal charges were filed against Officer Trainer.
But although Officer Trainer has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing, he will have to fight if he wants to continue his career as a law enforcement officer.
“The Use of Force Review Board has determined that the shooting was unjustified," Chief Newsham told WTTG on Tuesday morning.
"So what happens now is the member has been served with what's called a notice of proposed adverse action recommending termination. And so now the employee will have an opportunity to either accept the proposed adverse action, accept the termination, or ask for a hearing," he said.
Officer Trainer intends to go through the hearing process and fight his dismissal, WTTG reported.