For what feels like the millionth time this year, a police officer who killed an unarmed black motorcyclist in DC last year will not be indicted for the shooting. Body camera footage that depicted the officer performing CPR on Terrance Sterling, the victim, proved to be inadequate evidence for a grand jury weighing the case.
On Wednesday the grand jury declined to indict Brian Trainer, a current DC cop, in Sterling’s death. Their decision comes 10 months after Sterling was shot on his motorcycle in Northwest DC.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s version of events differs from witness testimony. According to their version, Trainer and his partner blocked Sterling’s path because they had tracked him driving “erratically” in the area. Sterling allegedly accelerated into the cruiser where Trainer was a passenger. Trainer “immediately” reacted by “firing two rounds” at Sterling — he was struck in his side and neck. Trainer’s body camera wasn’t activated until after the shooting.
Sterling was clocked driving at speeds over 100 MPH and officers allegedly saw him run red lights, however it’s against DC police protocol to chase vehicles for traffic violations. Witness testimony suggested that the collision would have been unavoidable because the cruiser appeared so suddenly in Sterling’s path, contradicting the U.S Attorney’s Office claim that he accelerated into the cruiser.
Jason Downs, who represents the Sterling family, was confounded by the decision not to indict. “They don’t believe they can get a conviction despite the fact that Brian Trainer shot an unarmed man in the back, a man that had no weapons whatsoever. They don’t believe they can get a conviction,” Downs said outside the courthouse on Wednesday. “This is yet another example of our government disappointing us and letting down our community.”
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser released a statement and expressed disappointment with the decision; she also said the DC police had asked for Trainer’s resignation, which seems the minimum possible punishment.
“Without accountability in this case, we break trust with our community–rendering the District and MPD less safe and less strong,” said Bowser. “I do not believe there can be real accountability if the officer remains on the force. As the department commences its disciplinary review, MPD has asked for the officer’s resignation.”
In 2016, as reported by The New York Times, out of 15 high profile shootings where a black man was killed by a police officer, only two police officers have been convicted of a crime.
Below is the body camera footage from the incident; it shows officers attempting to perform CPR on Trainer. The video is graphic.