Today, The Washington Post reported findings from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Internal Affairs investigation of the fatal shooting of Terrence Sterling, an unarmed Black man who was operating a motorcycle at the time of the incident. The investigation found that the MPD officer who shot and killed Mr. Sterling had no reason to pull his gun and was not in danger when he fired, deeming the use of force unjustified. The Post explained:
The 34-page report also concluded that Sterling was trying to maneuver around the cruiser, not ram it. And investigators noted that Trainer told them that, other than Sterling’s reckless driving, he did not have any reason to think the motorcyclist may have been ‘armed and dangerous.’ Trainer’s decision to shoot ‘was not in defense of his life, nor was it in defense of the lives of others,’ according to the report.
Earlier this year, however, the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges against the officer on the basis that that they did not find enough evidence to pursue a case.
As I have previously discussed, we need to hold our government accountable when tragedies such as this occur. We need to call for independent prosecutors, implicit bias and cultural awareness training for police departments, and improve police/community relations. We cannot stop fighting until we see measurable impact. If transformation will not come from our elected officials and others in power, we must serve as a strong voice to advocate for justice.
Melanie Bates is an attorney based in Washington, D.C. She has a passion for criminal justice reform and believes that poverty, lack of education, and other social issues should not feed the pipeline to prison. Through consistent advocacy, she desires to alleviate the factors that force many people to become a part of the criminal justice system. The views expressed here are her own.