By Carla Branch
alexandrianews.org

Bullet hole in the window at the YMCA next to Simpson Stadium Park (courtesy photo)

Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter today released his review of the June 14 shooting at Simpson Field in which he finds the use of deadly force by U.S. Capitol police officers and Alexandria police officers to be justified.

The report entitled “Use of Force Investigation and Analysis” outlines the steps Porter took in reviewing the incident and his conclusion. Three sections of Porter’s report are below.

Introduction

At a little before 7 a.m. on the morning of June 14, 2017, a group comprising members of Congress and congressional staff members met for baseball practice in the City of Alexandria, Virginia. The group was preparing to represent the Republican party in the annual charity Congressional Baseball Game to be held at Nationals Stadium. The practice was held at a baseball diamond that is part of the Eugene Simpson Stadium complex. The Simpson complex is located in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. The weather was clear and fair that morning.

Unbeknownst to the baseball players, the suspect, James T. Hodgkinson, was planning to attack them by opening fire on the team with a lawfully purchased SKS-style semi-automatic assault rifle and a 9mm semi-automatic handgun.

Shortly after 7 a.m. the suspect approached the baseball field from the west. He was carrying the assault rifle. Without warning, the suspect opened fire on the group of baseball players. Three players were shot. United States Capitol Police agents, who were already on the scene as part of a protective detail for Rep. Steve Scalise, the Majority Whip of the House of Representatives, immediately engaged the suspect with return fire. Both agents were injured by gunfire, one seriously. Alexandria Police Department officers responded to the scene and engaged in the pitched gun battle. No Alexandria officer was injured.

During the gun battle, the suspect fired a total of at least 70 rounds: 62 7.62x39mm rounds fired through the assault rifle and eight 9mm rounds fired through the semi-automatic handgun. In aggregate, the agents and police officers fired a total of at least 40 rounds. During the firefight, the suspect was shot several times by the officers. Despite immediate life-saving efforts by officers and medics, he succumbed to his wounds later that morning. While the shooting victims suffered serious and in some cases life-threatening injuries, all survived.

My review of this incident leads me to conclude that United States Capitol Police agents and Alexandria Police Department officers fired their weapons in lawful and proper exercise of self-defense and the defense of others. I therefore conclude that the use of deadly force in this case was legally justified.

Findings

The evidence in this case establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect, fueled by rage against Republican legislators, decided to commit an act of terrorism as that term is defined by the Code of Virginia. See Va. Code §18.46.4. 4 The suspect, using a lawfully-purchased assault rifle and handgun, ambushed a peaceful assembly of people practicing baseball and began to fire indiscriminately in an effort to kill and maim as many people as possible.

As the suspect began to shoot at the people practicing, he was almost immediately engaged by Special Agent David Bailey, who entered the baseball field and returned fire at risk to his own safety. Bailey’s courageous act helped avert disaster by “pinning down” the suspect and apparently causing him to alter his plans. The suspect then walked south towards the area behind home plate to engage and to try to neutralize Special Agent Bailey and Special Agent Crystal Griner.

The suspect continued to fire his assault rifle at Bailey and Griner from behind a position of cover. However, Griner and Bailey continued to engage the suspect, preventing him from freely moving about. Even after being seriously wounded, Griner managed to return fire and to help an injured person, Matthew Mika, who was lying next to the black SUV. Griner and Bailey willingly and courageously drew the suspect’s fire towards their position and thereby prevented him from focusing on the unarmed people hiding on the baseball field and in the dugouts. Griner and Bailey’s heroic actions also bought time for Alexandria police to arrive on the scene and join the firefight.

Alexandria Police Officer Kevin Jobe approached from the east and joined the firefight from roughly the same position as Bailey and Griner. The suspect continued to fire at the law enforcement officers, shooting a burst at Ofc. Nicole Battaglia as she approached. As Jobe got into firing position, he encountered a determined suspect who continued to fire. Numerous commands to “get on the ground” were ignored by the suspect. Ofc. Alexander Jensen approached from the west. Soon after he arrived on scene, he observed the suspect firing at the officers and agents to the east and heard the burst of gunfire targeting Battaglia.

As Jensen got into firing position with his rifle, the suspect continued to actively fire at officers. The agents and police officers who engaged the suspect were confronted with a suspect who determinedly and repeatedly engaged in deadly force against a group of innocent, unarmed baseball players. When engaged by the agents and the responding Alexandria police officers, the suspect trained his fire on them. The suspect’s intent, which can be clearly inferred from his conduct, was to shoot the agents and officers so that he could return to killing and maiming the unarmed people on the baseball field.

On these facts, the agents and officers were justified in reasonably fearing for their lives and the lives of the people on the baseball field. Therefore, it was reasonable – indeed it was necessary – for them to use deadly force in order to repel the assault and neutralize the threat.

The agents and officers reasonably used deadly force until the threat was neutralized, and then, to their credit, they immediately approached the suspect and rendered first-aid.

For the reasons stated above, the use of deadly force by SA Griner, SA Bailey, Ofc. Jobe and Ofc. Jensen in this case was justified by the doctrine of self-defense as that doctrine is outlined by the law of Virginia. I decline to bring any criminal charge against the agents and officers.

Conclusion

The facts presented in this case are so clear-cut and so obviously required the agents and officers to use deadly force that one might question why my office even conducted this review. The answer is self-evident: the facts cannot be considered “clear-cut” until their totality is known and sufficiently analyzed.

Furthermore, as the elected Commonwealth’s Attorney, it is my duty to review every law-enforcement use of deadly force regardless of whether it appears justified at first glance. And it is axiomatic that each use-of-force investigation must be conducted in substantially the same way and not “pre-judged” by what the facts may appear to be. Initial media reports are always incomplete and sometimes inaccurate. Finally, it is important that the citizens of Alexandria be given a detailed factual accounting of any law-enforcement shooting in as transparent and expeditious a manner as the circumstances allow.

I note that the time-frame in which this report was produced and publicly released was significantly truncated by two factors that may not present themselves in future use-of-force reviews: first, the suspect was killed as a result of the use of force and, therefore, obviously could not be prosecuted for any criminal offense and second, the facts of this case, while horrifying, were relatively straightforward and corroborated by both many eyewitnesses and the available physical evidence.

I note that if the situation were different, and had criminal charges been brought against any person, the ethical rules applicable to attorneys would have prohibited me from making any public comment on the facts or evidence of this case outside of a courtroom. Indeed, the rules would have specifically prohibited the public release of this report until after the attendant criminal charges had been adjudicated in a court of law.5 Since no criminal prosecution is warranted in this case, I may release this report and discuss its contents publicly.

The actions of Special Agents Griner and Bailey indisputably prevented the suspect from completing his planned attack and, therefore, prevented innumerable deaths and serious injuries. Their actions also “pinned down” the suspect and created time for the Alexandria police to respond and join the gun battle. The actions of

Officers Jensen, Jobe and Battaglia helped neutralize the threat presented by the suspect without further injury to innocent people. The agents and officers should be commended for their bravery and service. As others ran from the suspect, they engaged him and ran towards the danger. The agents and officers are the paradigm of what law-enforcement officers should be and are true stewards of the public trust inherent in their respective offices.

This case did not present a close call. To the contrary, not only were the actions of the agents and officers reasonable, they were obligatory in light of the overwhelming and determined force employed by the suspect.


4 In pertinent part, the Code of Virginia defines an “Act of Terrorism” as “an act of violence… committed with the intent to (i)intimidate the civilian population at large or  (ii) influence the conduct or activities of the government of the United States, a state or locality through intimidation.”

5 Va. Rule of Professional Conduct 3.6(a) holds that “a lawyer participating in… the investigation or prosecution… of a criminal matter that may be tried to a jury shall not make or participate in making an extrajudicial statement… that the lawyer knows, or should know, will have a substantial likelihood of interfering with the fairness of

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrTweet about this on Twitter