Evidence: Cop charged with murder consumed by marital woes

AP News
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Posted: Mar 31, 2016 3:13 PM

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — A police officer charged with murder for shooting a man during a 2013 domestic standoff questioned himself about whether he acted out of anger over his own deteriorating marriage, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Adam Torres, a former Fairfax County police officer, is scheduled to go on trial for murder April 18 in the August 2013 shooting death of John Geer, 46, of Springfield. Officers had been called to Geer's home because of a domestic dispute. Torres shot Geer after a 45-minute standoff. Witnesses, including other officers, said Geer was unarmed with his hands up when he was shot. Torres told investigators he thought Geer might have a weapon hidden in his waistband, and was concerned Geer might reach for a gun he had previously set at his feet.

At a pretrial hearing Thursday, defense attorneys sought to suppress numerous statements Torres made to other officers before and after the shooting about his anger over his marriage and his concerns that his wife was cheating on him. On three different days in the year leading up to the shooting, either Torres or his supervisors decided he was emotionally unfit to work because of his distress over his marital woes, prosecutor Robert McClain said.

On the day of the shooting, Torres had been arguing with his wife on the phone for 15 minutes immediately before reporting to the standoff at the Geer home. Within a minute or two of firing the shot, he told another officer out of the blue, "I had a fight with my wife."

A few days later, when detectives asked Torres why he brought that up, Torres responded that he wondered "for a split second" whether he fired out of anger but quickly concluded in his own mind the shooting was justified, according to a transcript of the interrogation.

Defense lawyers argued that the statements were irrelevant, unfairly prejudicial to their client, and should not be used against him because he felt compelled to speak to supervisors to keep his job.

Prosecutors said the statements were relevant to establish Torres' state of mind, and said Torres made the statements voluntarily.

Judge Robert Smith ruled that the statements made immediately after the shooting and in the days after are admissible. But he ruled that two discussions Torres had with his supervisor in September 2012 were too far removed from the actual shooting to be relevant. He withheld judgment on a statement Torres made a month before the shooting that he needed to take a sick day because he was "fed up with everything."

While Geer was killed in 2013, Torres was not indicted until 2015. The two-year delay led to allegations that Fairfax County was stonewalling the investigation. Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh said the county's own lawyers refused to provide internal police documents he needed to conduct his investigation until a federal court, a civil lawsuit and an inquiry from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, prodded the county to relent.