District of Columbia Seeks to Fire Police Officer Who Shot and Killed Motorcyclist

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.