ALEXANDRIA POLICE DEPARTMENT
Public Information Office
2003 Mill Road
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JANUARY 2, 2007 #07-001
12:00 P.M. BARTLETT
Alexandria Police Complete Investigation into Fatal Shooting;
Officer Disciplined for Violating Department Policy
Alexandria Police Chief David P. Baker today announced that the department has concluded its internal administrative investigation into the police shooting that resulted in the death of 18-year-old Aaron Brown of Springfield. As a result of its findings, the department is disciplining the officer involved for violating police department policy when handling such encounters and modifying its procedures for handling similar incidents.
In the early morning hours of February 25, 2006, Officer Carl Stowe, working an off-duty security detail at the International House of Pancakes restaurant at 6254 Duke Street, attempted to stop a vehicle occupied by six customers who had left the restaurant without paying their bill. Officer Stowe saw the suspects leave the restaurant and enter a Jeep Cherokee parked on the premises, and directed the driver to stop. The driver ignored the order and began to flee, driving past Officer Stowe.
Within seconds, Officer Stowe again encountered the Jeep at another point in the parking lot and, again, ordered the driver to stop. The driver of the fleeing vehicle, who was subsequently determined to have been under the influence of alcohol and marijuana, accelerated and swerved toward Officer Stowe. In accordance with department policy and training, Officer Stowe attempted to move from the vehicle’s path but the driver continued to accelerate and steer in the direction the officer was moving. At that point, Officer Stowe, in fear that the driver was about to strike him with the vehicle, fired multiple shots at the driver in defense of his own life. One of the shots struck and killed Mr. Brown, who had fled the restaurant with the group and was positioned in the back seat of the Jeep behind the driver.
In June, following a separate criminal investigation, Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney S. Randolph Sengel determined that Officer Stowe had been legally justified in using lethal force. Mr. Sengel found that the elapsed time between the officer’s first shot, which struck the front of the car’s hood, and the third shot that struck Mr. Brown was likely between one-fifth and one-quarter of a second, and that the Jeep vehicle had traveled at least nine feet during that time.
Mr. Sengel also cited that according to accepted scientific analyses, it would have taken the officer at least one-half second to interpret and react to the fact that the vehicle was passing him as he was firing at the driver. The subsequent internal police investigation supported Mr. Sengel’s findings with regard to the shooting itself. (For Mr. Sengel’s “Report of Investigation” please see http://www.alexandriava.gov/cattorney/stowe.pdf.)
The criminal and administrative investigations both revealed that the driver’s actions presented an immediate and deadly threat to the officer, and that these actions were the primary factor that led to the actual shooting. “The subsequent loss of Mr. Brown’s life was an unintended and painfully tragic consequence of an otherwise justified use of lethal force,” said Chief Baker.
Although the internal administrative investigation found that Officer Stowe acted within department policy in his decision to use lethal force in self-defense, he was found to have unreasonably placed himself in a position that allowed the situation to elevate to a level of high risk as he attempted to stop the fleeing vehicle. Alexandria Police Department policy in place at the time prohibited officers from placing themselves in the path of a moving vehicle in high-risk traffic stops.
In the course of conducting the investigation, the police department reviewed several of its existing policies. As a result, the policy and training for handling such cases have been modified. The most significant change is a more restrictive policy that now prohibits officers from moving into, standing in front of, or remaining in the path of a moving vehicle for any reason, except when conducting routine traffic control and direction. Further, the policy governing shooting at moving vehicles has been amended, prohibiting officers from doing so except as a last resort in the most extreme and exceptional circumstances when necessary to avoid the immediate and clearly foreseeable danger of death or serious injury to police officers or other individuals.
“This is one of the most tragic cases I have encountered in my 36 years of law enforcement experience, and I offer my heartfelt condolences to the Brown family,” said Chief Baker. As Chief, my responsibility is to ensure that with proper training, sound policies and awareness of this case, no other family will have to experience what the Brown family has suffered.”
Officer Stowe will receive major disciplinary action in accordance with the City’s administrative regulations.
NOTE: David P. Baker was appointed Police Chief on September 14, 2006. He previously served as Senior Deputy Chief and second in command to former Chief Charles E. Samarra, who retired August 1, 2006.