By: Matthew Tievsky
In the early morning of September 11, 2016, Terrence Sterling, a black
man, was driving a motorcycle and ran a red light. Two police officers,
Brian Trainer and Jordan Palmer, witnessed this, and set off on a high-speed
chase in their police cruiser to arrest Sterling. The chase ultimately
ended when the officers stopped their car ahead of Sterling, Officer Trainer
got out, and shot Sterling twice, killing him.
Protests in the city immediately followed, as concerned citizens noted
that Sterling was not armed. Officer Trainer claimed that just before
the shooting, Sterling intentionally collided with the stopped cruiser
and put Officer Trainer in harm’s way. But several of the circumstances
regarding this incident were troubling and suggest that Officer Trainer
used excessive force. The officers did not have authority from their superiors
to engage in a high-speed chase of the motorcyclist. Officer Trainer claimed
that Sterling’s collision with the cruiser severely injured him,
but (according to the District) the officer only suffered a bruise and
a scrape to his leg. And Officer Trainer failed to turn on his bodycam,
which could have provided crucial evidence of what happened on that fateful night.
The Metropolitan Police Department recommended firing Officer Trainer for
the incident. However, the officer has the right to challenge this recommendation,
and right now Officer Trainer’s fate is being determined at a days-long
hearing before a trial board. Only if the District prevails will Officer
Trainer be terminated from the force. Prosecutors considered but ultimately
declined to pursue criminal charges against Officer Trainer.
The only form of justice that has come to fruition so far is a wrongful
death lawsuit that was filed by Sterling’s family, which resulted
in a $3.5-million settlement. Civil lawsuits are often the only way to
obtain compensation for persons who are wrongfully injured by the police,
and are a deterrent against police misconduct. Furthermore, a person who
is injured by the police (or the family of a person killed)
always has the option to bring a lawsuit, whereas criminal charges can only be
brought by government prosecutors if they so choose.
If you have been wrongfully injured or detained by the police, you should
contact the personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel,
P.C., for a free consultation.