On Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced that federal prosecutors will not file charges against the officer who shot and killed 31-year-old Terrence Sterling, during a 2016 traffic stop.
In the early morning hours of Sunday, September 11, 2016, D.C. officer Brian Trainer spotted a motorcyclist, who was later identified as Sterling, driving “recklessly” on his way home from a bachelor party. As Sterling headed down New Jersey Ave, a Metropolitan Police cruiser pulled into the intersection, blocking the path of the motorcyclist to subsequently perform a traffic stop.
However, as Trainer, who was a passenger in the police cruiser, attempted to get out of the car to make the stop, Sterling reportedly “revved his motorcycle and then accelerated” toward the police car. According to the U.S. attorney’s office, the officer then felt the motorcycle hit the car door and “reacted by immediately firing two rounds at Mr. Sterling through his front passenger window,” striking Sterling, who was unarmed, in his neck and side.
Now, nearly one year later, prosecutors have declined to file charges against Trainer, as they believe they don’t not have enough evidence to prosecute.
“After a careful, thorough, and independent review of the evidence, federal prosecutors have found insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer willfully used unreasonable force and/or was not acting in self-defense when he discharged his service weapon at Mr. Sterling,” the office of U.S. District Attorney Channing D. Phillips said in a statement.
Although prosecutors will not file charges, the police department has asked Trainer to resign from his position, after four years on the force.
In the meantime, the Sterling family’s attorney, Jason Downs, revealed that he was “outraged” by prosecutor’s decision to forgo a grand jury vote on whether to charge Trainer.
“That is disappointing and frustrating. It frustrates the purpose of our system,” Downs said. “After sitting through so much evidence, grand jurors should have been given the right to vote this up or down. The prosecutor’s office took that decision away from them.”
According to reports, Sterling’s family has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the District and its police department, claiming that Trainer and his partner may have violated D.C. police rules. Therefore, the case may still be heard in civil court.