Terrence Sterling/Twitter

A Washington, D.C. police officer who fatally shot and killed an unarmed black motorcyclist back in September 2016, federal prosecutors announced on 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 the DC Police Department has asked for the resignation of the officer involved, identified as 27-year-old Brian Trainer, as Trainer did not have on his body camera at the time of the shooting, violating department protocol. Trainer only activated his camera 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 wire notes.


Trainer was the passenger in a police cruiser that day on Sept. 11 when he and his partner blocked the path of the motorcycle that Sterling, 21 was driving. Sterling had reportedly been spotted driving erratically.

As the Washington Post notes, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office statement, Sterling “revved his motorcycle and then accelerated” toward the cruiser. The officer felt the motorcycle hit the door and “reacted by immediately firing two round at Sterling through his front passenger window.”

The statement claims that that night Sterling had touched on speeds of more than 100 mph and had run red lights, including one instance where 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 that 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 as 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 previously stated that Sterling’s crash into the police vehicle appeared to be an accident, adding that they thought Sterling was trying to get around the police car.

Read more at Reuters and the Washington Post.

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