WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that there is insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against U.S. Park Police detectives involved in the fatal shooting of Trey Joyner.
Officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the Washington Field Office of the FBI met today with the Joyner family and their representatives to inform them of this decision.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania conducted a comprehensive investigation into the events surrounding the June 8, 2009, shooting that resulted in Mr. Joyner’s death. The investigation reviewed all of the material and evidence generated by the Washington Field Office of the FBI, including witness statements, crime scene evidence, ballistics reports and medical reports.
U.S. Park Police detectives were attempting to question Mr. Joyner regarding a homicide investigation. Officers had credible information that Mr. Joyner was armed. Upon stopping his vehicle, Mr. Joyner began to flee, but turned back to his car to retrieve a handgun that had dropped to the ground as he exited. Civilian and police witnesses either saw or heard the gun hitting the ground and a loaded handgun with a round in the chamber was found near the location where Mr. Joyner was shot. As Mr. Joyner picked the gun up off of the ground, a detective ran to Mr. Joyner and grabbed him and a brief struggle ensued. The witness statements support that Mr. Joyner pointed the loaded gun at the detective during this struggle, and that he ignored repeated commands to drop the gun. The detective then fired his own gun, striking Mr. Joyner in his torso at close range. The detective fell back as other officers fired their weapons. Forensic examination of gunshot wounds to Mr. Joyner indicate that one of the fatal wounds came from close range fire to his torso consistent with the struggle described by officers. Contrary to some civilian witness statements that Mr. Joyner was shot in the back as he was fleeing, the autopsy revealed wounds to Mr. Joyner consistent with the officers’ version that Mr. Joyner spun around following an initial close-range shot during a struggle.
Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights laws, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right, meaning with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. Accident, mistake, fear, negligence or bad judgment are not sufficient to establish such a criminal violation. After a careful and thorough review, federal prosecutors and FBI agents determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the law enforcement personnel who fired at Mr. Joyner acted willfully, meaning with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed without prosecution.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Civil Rights Division and the Washington Field Office of the FBI devoted significant time and resources to complete a painstaking analysis of the evidence and facts developed during the investigation.
The Justice Department is committed to investigating allegations of excessive force by law enforcement officers and will continue to devote the resources necessary to ensure that all allegations of serious civil rights violations are fully and completely investigated.