Backlog slows investigation into Sellers’ death

By Derrick Perkins

Taft Sellers died after an armed confrontation with police officers more than three months ago, but the investigation into the shooting remains open — a delay officials blame on the medical examiner’s office.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Sengel, who is overseeing the investigation into the officers’ conduct, said his office is waiting on autopsy and toxicology reports from the state lab. Both are crucial to the review, he said.

“I consider those to be critical pieces of information that I need to consider in determining the outcome of the case,” Sengel said. “Until I get that information, I’m kind of in a holding pattern.”

A domestic call on the 3400 block of Duke St. sparked the Presidents Day shooting. Sellers, a 30-year-old former Marine, was allegedly armed when police arrived at the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority complex. Neighbors reported hearing multiple gunshots ring out in the usually quiet neighborhood.

But few other details about the incident are publicly known. How many officers were involved, who opened fire, the make of Sellers’ weapon and whether the former Marine used it remain unanswered questions.

Sengel’s review of the case will determine whether the officers involved — put on administrative leave following the shooting — will face criminal charges. Sellers’ friends described him as a kind and caring person with a quick smile but noted the T.C. Williams graduate seemed troubled in the days leading up to his death.
The commonwealth’s attorney has pushed the medical examiner’s office for the needed information but does not know when he can expect the reports.

“Just based on what we are getting from them — we are getting reports recently from cases that happened in December and early January,” Sengel said. “That gives you an idea of how far behind — how backlogged — they are.”

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