Fairfax County Police Cleared in Shooting of Suicidal Man
By a Thomas Soldan Attorney at Law Staff Writer
Two Fairfax County police officers who shot and wounded a suicidal man last month have been cleared of any criminal liability, according to The Washington Post.
According to the newspaper report, the incident occurred at about 1 p.m. on September 8, 2014 in the 7000 block of Old Keene Mill Road. Officers Joseph Furman and Gene Taitano opened fire on a 60-year-old man, who was reported to be suicidal, after he raised a gun, according to police. The Fairfax County Police Department announced the ruling, noting that the office of the County Commonwealth’s Attorney investigated the shooting and found no basis for criminal liability. Furman and Taitano are both seasoned veterans of the force with 24 years and 15 years, respectively. Both are back to serving at full-duty status after being placed on administrative duty during the investigation of the incident.
The Fairfax incident and the ruling reminds us of another police shooting of a suicidal person, though that incident occurred in Loudoun County and resulted in the death of a 17-year-old boy. Loudoun County prosecutors also found there was no evidence of wrong-doing by the Purcellville officer that gunned down Christian Sierra. According to a FOX 5 report which cited a police report, the youth had already stabbed himself 19 times in the head, neck, and wrist when Officer Timothy Hood arrived on scene. Witnesses in that incident described the teen as being totally out of control. The police report stated that that the 17-year-old charged at the officer with the knife when the officer opened fire, killing the youth.
Christian’s family announced through their attorney that they hope to have an independent investigation conducted where the investigators are not affiliated with the Commonwealth and the county in which the shooting occurred. The report on the shooting of the 60-year-old victim in Fairfax County does not note if the two officers had Tasers or other less-than-lethal tools at their disposal. In the slaying of Sierra, the investigation found that the officer had been on the job for little more than a year and did not have a Taser.
As we noted in the shooting death of Sierra, the family of the 60-year-old who was shot by the Fairfax officers may not receive justice in a criminal court, but they can still pursue civil justice through a personal injury claim. Among the issues that could be raised are questions of whether the officers had access to and tried to use less-lethal weapons to subdue the victim, or if they have received adequate crisis intervention training. A number of law enforcement agencies across the country have created mental health evaluation units, which are comprised of officers who have been trained in the art of negotiation to deescalate potentially dangerous situations without having to resort to deadly violence.
Thomas Soldan Attorney at Law is a full service law firm in Leesburg, Virginia that provides representation for clients seeking civil claims or defending against criminal complaints. If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of an officer-involved-shooting or similar situation, contact Mr. Soldan to discuss your options for a personal injury or wrongful death suit.