Family of Motorcyclist Killed by Police to Receive $3.5 Million
The city of Washington has agreed to pay $3.5 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Terrence Sterling, an unarmed African American man who was shot to death by officers in back in 2016. Sterling, of Fort Washington, Maryland, 31 years old at the time of his death, was riding on a motorcycle and hit a squad car after a high-speed chase. Charges were never filed against Brian Trainer, the officer responsible for the shooting, who failed to turn on his body camera just prior to the man’s death, only employing it after the shots were fired. Trainer had been on the force for four years at the time.
“When something bad happens, we keep the public’s trust by looking into what went wrong and taking steps to make things right,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said following the agreement. “This settlement is a step in that direction. We can never say or do anything to bring Terrence back. But we can, and do resolve to illuminate what went wrong and, with great determination, do what we can to ensure no family faces this pain.”
A police review board found the shooting unjustified and recommended that Trainer be terminated from the department. Trainer has been on paid administrative leave since the investigation began and has requested a public hearing that is scheduled for April 11th at 9:00 A.M. “He has, according to our system, a lot of different levels of appeal and he’s exercising those,” Bowser said.
According to a review of the incident by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Trainer and his partner, the driver, were stopped at a red light on U Street at 15th Street in northwest D.C. about 4:20 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 11. Sterling pulled in front of their vehicle and stopped for just a few seconds before speeding off through the red light. The officers turned on their lights and siren and pursued the motorcyclist.
The officers lost sight of Sterling at several points during their chase, but other police officers and civilians in the area saw him riding at speeds estimated at 100 mph. Sterling was running red lights before Trainer and another officer blocked him by pulling their squad car into an intersection.
Trainer then shot two rounds through the front window of the squad car, according to the U.S. attorney, hitting Sterling as the man rammed into Trainer’s door. Toxicology results showed Sterling had a blood alcohol level of 0.16, roughly twice the legal limit for the District of Columbia and tested positive for THC. Sterling died of gunshot wounds to his neck and back, according to the city’s chief medical examiner.
The family’s complaint said police violated general orders by getting in the way of a moving vehicle, increasing the chance of deadly force. They also said Trainer used excessive force in his decision to shoot Sterling. The attorney for the family, Hassan Murphy of Baltimore, said he was happy the District of Columbia “stepped up, took this so seriously, and came strong with compensation for the family.”