Tasing incident involving Fairfax County police officer

In this image from a body-worn camera, a Fairfax County police officer can be seen pinning an African-American man to the ground with his knee while holding a Taser on his back. The incident occurred Friday, June 5, 2020, in the Alexandria area of the county. 

The actions of a Fairfax County police officer who used a Taser to subdue an African American man on Friday were "horrible" and "disgusting," Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. says. 

"What you see here is unacceptable. It does not value the sanctity of human life," Roessler said during a news conference late Saturday night about the incident, which was recorded on the body camera of another officer who responded. 

The officer, Tyler Timberlake, has been charged with three counts of assault and battery and faces up to 36 months in prison if convicted.  Timberlake, who is white, is an eight-year veteran of the Fairfax Police Department, assigned to the Mount Vernon district. 

Roessler said the other officers who responded to the incident have been suspended pending further criminal and administrative investigations.  He praised the actions of the first officer who responded for trying to de-escalate the situation, but said the investigation will include whether the other officers on the scene should have intervened faster to stop the tasing of the victim.  "We do have a policy that there is a duty to intervene," Roessler said.

The victim was taken to a local hospital, where he was treated and released. He has not been identified. "I thank God that he is alive and resting at home with his family," Roessler said, adding that he has spoken with the victim's mother.  "I assured her justice will be served."

The incident began around 1:30 p.m. Friday in the Alexandria area of Fairfax, when a resident called to report a man walking in the street shouting that he needed oxygen. 

"This gentleman was having some type of episode," Roessler said. 

In the video from the body camera of the first officer who responded, the officer can be seen trying to persuade the man to get into a waiting ambulance.  Paramedics are also on the scene.  About two minutes and 45 seconds into the video, a second officer responds and aims his taser at the victim from a few feet away. The victim falls to the ground in the street, and the officer with the Taser pins him to the ground with his knee on the victim's back. 

Roessler said his department will investigate the amount of force that was used to restrain the victim and whether the tactics complied with police department policy. 

But, he noted, "Just because you escalate does not mean you continue to escalate. You have a duty to de-escalate."

Roessler said privacy laws prohibit him from releasing any information about Timberlake's service record.

He noted that in the current environment, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and nationwide protests against the use of force by police officers, the incident will further erode the public's trust in police.

"I righteously stand with the anger across this country and this community because I have righteous anger, too," Roessler said. "I need to hold the officers accountable; the community holds them accountable. We need to do a better job as a profession."

Fairfax County already has a study underway of use of force by its police department, and Roessler said the problem doesn't exist just in Fairfax.  

 "We have a problem in our profession," he added. "We do disproportionately use force in the African-American community, and we need to understand why."

Also speaking during the late-night news conference, Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, addressed the issues around use of force.

"I am angry. I know our community is angry," McKay said.  "This has been a particularly hard couple of weeks for our Fairfax community and what we heard tonight will make healing much more difficult."

He praised the police department for being transparent about the incident, releasing the video and holding the officer accountable

"The responsiblity is ours to rebuild any trust that has been broken as a result of this incident," McKay said.

Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Steve T. Descano, who brought the charges, said the body camera footage played an important role in his office's investigation of the matter.

"The footage of this incident is unsettling," Descano said. "Fairfax County is our home, and we hold ourselves to a much higher standard than what we see in this video."

(14) comments

Sammiezmom

The only distressing thing about this video is the behavior of the black man... who seems to be totally out of reality. I think the police did as well as they could. I wouldn't not fault the police... any of them.

Sammiezmom

This incident has nothing to do with the sanctity of human life. The guy seemed to be out of his mind, and the police did as best they could under the situation. Were they supposed to shoot him up with a tranquilizer??? Knock him out? He was endangering both himself and the police officers... and anyone else who might come up the street.

swandive

How was he a threat? He didnt appear to have any weapons. He didnt threaten anyone. He wasnt excessively out of control. The situation was being controlled by the more professional officers that were already on the scene, then cowboy bob jumps out the car and attacks the guy. He even punched him in the back of the head with the tazer after repeatedly tazing him while sitting on his back.

Cooper

How was he a threat? Granted he was not lucid, but he was just walking in circles. He wasn't threatening, he didn't have a weapon, something was wrong but he was not even close to being a threat... the one officer was attempting to guide him to the ambulance when super cop tazed him from out of nowhere. Then decided to hit him in the back of the head while he had him on the ground and taze him two more times. The cops DID NOT do their best - I see "Rebel" jumped in a couple comments later, let's see how lucid all the "rebels" are in Old Town Manassas on a Saturday night. I don't see them getting tazed.

WalliciaG

Tassing, and using force with a man who is unarmed, and apparently experiencing a breakdown (“out of his mind”) are appropriate actions? How about using non- violent techniques? Super cop immediately tasses this man, and doesn’t attempt to use any de-escalating tactics. I wonder how you would feel about this response if the individual were your family member, or friend. The job is to serve and protect; what was threatening about this man wandering around in the street muttering nonsense?? He never responded to anyone in a violent way. “Pretty soon there will not be any police officers”— good riddance of all who respond like this so called “ police officer.”

This same attitude towards people is why this Nation is facing a crisis regarding policing of Black People....George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Breona Taylor,Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Tamira Rice, and there are more.

Warren K

racism much?

fearlessdan

And how is that racism Skippy

Rebel

Interesting

Soon there’ll be no one who wants to be a police officer.

Those that remain should just not stop or interfere with any black person.

Problem solved!

Tomahawk1234

Think it’s not already happening? Look at Chicago and Baltimore.

Lawson is clueless

The police officer was doing what he needs to do until he got him on the ground and tased him in the neck.

m444ss

Much of this article gives the impression of political motivation rather than justice on the part of the police chief, including (but not only): "Roessler said his department will investigate the amount of force that was used to restrain the victim and whether the tactics complied with police department policy." Apparently, they haven't even determined if the officer violated department policy but already have him on track for 3 years in prison. Fairfax County, where the politicians endorse criminal violence as acceptable "protest" and cops can. expect to be arrested on the grounds that they might have done something wrong.

Pershing 1a

Not only east the man acting irrational, he wa still putting up a fight after being tasked. The officer acted appropriately. It is the leadership of the police departments and politicians that is inappropriate

DBC

This looks completely justified and appropriate. He was clearly in a seriously altered mind state, unable and/or unwilling to respond to commands designed to help him (get him in the ambulance for the trip to detox). He was becoming agitated. The taser is meant to protect the officers and the suspect. Before tasers, the best option would be for two or more officers to approach and use physical force - how would that turn out. It took 4 or 5 people to restraint him even after being tasered. As soon as he was effectively subdued (handcuffs) they go off him, sat him up, and the #1 priority becomes his breathing. This is basic, everyday police work. If the Fairfax County chief wants to grandstand and virtue signal, God help the residents of Fairfax. Who will ever want to be police there? Imagine this situation (drugged up agitated people) walking around neighborhoods with no protection for citizens, except whatever they do on their own. How do you think that will turn out?

fearlessdan

I had to watch this video several times to try and figure out what the Officer did wrong. I don't see it, the individual was obviously suffering from mental illness and or was on drugs. These types of people displaying those characteristics will have adrenaline off the charts. In my experience on the same police department (retired) I would guess he was doing "Sherms" "Dippers" Marijuana dipped in PCP a popular drug used in the Black community. PCP is an animal tranquilizer, try subduing someone using PCP that can't feel any pain. On three occasions I had two and it took 4 or 5 of us to subdue the individual. We didn't have tasers in the 70's/80's you had to fight for your life to subdue these individuals. I wish we would have had tasers back then. This Police Chief has obviously been sitting on his ass behind a desk to long and has forgotten what Police work was like.

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