Sterling Family Settles Wrongful Death Suit as Officer Fights for Job

The District reached a $3.5 million settlement with the family of Terrence Sterling, an unarmed Black motorcyclist who was fatally shot by a D.C. police officer in 2016 during an attempted arrest for reckless driving.

Meanwhile, the officer who fired the fatal shots continues to fight for his job.

Officer Brian Trainer, 28, who has been on paid administrative leave since the incident, will appear before the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) disciplinary review board in April to challenge an internal review board’s recommendation that he be fired after finding the shooting to be unjustified.

Both the department and mayor called for his resignation.

“The relationship between our officers and the community they serve is built on trust. That trust exists when we hold everyone accountable,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said in an August statement when the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced no criminal charges would be bought against Trainer.

“I do not believe there can be real accountability if the officer remains on the force,” Bowser said.

In December 2016, Sterling’s family filed a $50 million lawsuit against the city. District officials said the settlement reached with the family is the city’s highest payout for a fatal police shooting.

In December, an MPD internal review board found the shooting of Sterling, 31, to be unjustified, ruling that Trainer was not in danger when he fired at Sterling and should not have pulled his gun.

On the morning of the Sept. 11, 2016, incident, officers received a call at about 4:20 a.m. about a motorcycle driving erratically through Adams Morgan, running red lights and traveling at speeds over 100 mph.

Trainer and his partner, Officer Jordan Palmer, began tracking Sterling though two ranking officers had ordered police not to pursue him.

Eventually, the two officers pulled their police cruiser into an intersection ahead of the motorcycle, which had stopped at a red light at Third and M streets in Northwest.

As Trainer got out of the passenger side of the car, Sterling rode forward and struck the police car door, after which Trainer fired two shots, hitting Sterling in the neck and back.

Trainer said Sterling intentionally rammed the cruiser and that he feared for his life when the bike came toward him, but witnesses disputed the officer, saying the crash was unavoidable and that Sterling appeared to attempt going around the car.

Trainer failed to turn on his uniform’s body-camera before the shooting.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office determined that Trainer would not face criminal charges due to lack of evidence to prove that Trainer violated Sterling’s civil rights by using excessive force, that he had criminal intent or was not acting in self-defense.

But the police department’s internal review board determined that Trainer should not have shot Sterling, as he was not defending himself or the lives of others, and recommended he be fired.

Trainer filed an objection to the board’s decision to terminate. A public hearing is scheduled for April 11.

Some plan to protest the hearing.

“The power elites of our city should not think this payment of blood money will quiet us or appease,” said local activist Diana Onley-Campbell in a Facebook post addressing the settlement. “Let’s remind the man who murdered our beloved Terrence that we refuse to [allow] him to continue living off the back of city residents.”

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Tatyana Hopkins – Washington Informer Contributing Writer

Tatyana Hopkins has always wanted to make the world a better place. Growing up she knew she wanted to be a journalist. To her there were too many issues in the world to pick a career that would force her to just tackle one. The recent Howard University graduate is thankful to have a job and enjoys the thrill she gets from chasing the story, meeting new people and adding new bits of obscure information to her knowledge base. Dubbed with the nickname “Fun Fact” by her friends, Tatyana seems to be full of seemingly “random and useless” facts. Meanwhile, the rising rents in D.C. have driven her to wonder about the length of the adverse possession statute of limitations (15 years?). Despite disliking public speaking, she remembers being scolded for talking in class or for holding up strangers in drawn-out conversations. Her need to understand the world and its various inhabitants frequently lands her in conversations on topics often deemed taboo: politics, religion and money. Tatyana avoided sports in high school she because the thought of a crowd watching her play freaked her out, but found herself studying Arabic, traveling to Egypt and eating a pigeon. She uses social media to scope out meaningful and interesting stories and has been calling attention to fake news on the Internet for years.

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