Internal review concludes police officers followed protocols in fatal standoff


By Erich Wagner (File Photo)

The police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Taft Sellers during an armed confrontation in February did not break any internal policies or procedures, officials announced Thursday.

The officers were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Sengel in June but remained on administrative leave until an internal investigation into the incident was complete. They are now free to return to active duty.

Alexandria Police Chief Earl Cook said at a press conference Thursday morning that the officers operated within the department’s guidelines for using lethal force when they shot and killed the armed 30-year-old former Marine at the 3400 block of Duke Street.

“When faced with a gun, they had to respond with the possibility of using lethal force themselves,” Cook said.

After an 11-minute standoff that saw officers unsuccessfully try to convince Sellers to surrender his weapon, the T.C. Williams graduate took aim. In response, the surrounding police officers fired 37 shots within about three seconds, hitting him five times.

While the officers involved abided by the department’s internal policies for the situation, their performance does have officials looking at ways to improve. The amount of missed shots during the confrontation was worrisome, the police chief said.

“It was concerning to review the number of rounds that did miss,” Cook said. “We’re looking into it from a training aspect. The only thing preliminarily we could do is make sure more long guns are used in these situations, but everyone was correctly using their weapons.”

The shots that hit Sellers all came from a rifle and a shotgun, both of which were used by the officers positioned closest to Sellers, Cook said.

“I think some of the officers [using their handguns] felt they could not leave their positions of cover to go get long guns,” he said.

Cook reiterated that the department has not implemented any sanctions against the officers involved.

The agency has forwarded its case files to the civil rights division of the FBI, in accordance with protocol for all police-involved shootings, and the department will present its findings before the city’s Human Rights Commission in the next couple of weeks, Cook said.