A Washington, D.C., police officer who fatally shot and killed an unarmed black motorcyclist in September 2016 will not face charges, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Terrence Sterling’s death sparked protests across the capital, raising a fresh wave of anger over the recent spate of police killings over the past few years. However, according to Reuters, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement that “there is insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights or District of Columbia charges.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said that D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department has asked for the resignation of the officer involved, identified as 27-year-old Brian Trainer, since Trainer’s body camera was not on at the time of the shooting, violating department protocol. Trainer activated his camera only after Sterling was shot.
“I do not believe there can be real accountability if the officer remains on the force,” she said in a statement.
For now the officer remains on administrative leave and faces an internal department review of the shooting, the newswire notes.
Trainer was the passenger in a police cruiser on Sept. 11, 2016, the day he and his partner blocked the path of the motorcycle Sterling, 21, was driving. Sterling had reportedly been spotted driving erratically.
As the Washington Post notes, according to the statement by the U.S. attorney’s office, Sterling “revved his motorcycle and then accelerated” toward the police cruiser. The officer felt the motorcycle hit the door and “reacted by immediately firing two rounds at Sterling through his front passenger window.”
The statement indicates that that night, Sterling had hit speeds of more than 100 mph and had run red lights, including one instance in which he sped through a stoplight after looking at the officers. An autopsy report ruled that Sterling’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit and that he tested positive for marijuana.
Jason Downs, an attorney representing Sterling’s family, said he was “outraged” to discover that prosecutors had presented the case to a grand jury but did not allow it to vote on whether to charge the officer, the Post reports.
“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.”
Although federal charges have been nixed, the case may still be headed to civil court; Sterling’s family has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the district and the Police Department.
The lawsuit pushes forward the claim that Trainer and his partner may have violated D.C. police policy, questioning whether the officers improperly chased Sterling, whether the police cruiser was improperly used as a barricade, and whether Trainer improperly fired his weapon at a moving vehicle or from within his cruiser.
Two witnesses have stated that Sterling’s crash into the police vehicle appeared to have been an accident, adding that they thought Sterling was trying to get around the police car.