U.S. Attorney's Office Concludes Investigation Into the Death of Bobby Gross
No Charges to Be Filed in Police-Involved Shooting in Metro Tunnel
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced today that there is insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights or local charges against an officer from the Metro Transit Police who was involved in the fatal shooting of Bobby Gross last year in the middle of a Metro tunnel that runs between the Stadium Armory and Potomac Avenue stations.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, the Metropolitan Police Department and the Metro Transit Police conducted a comprehensive review of the incident, which included interviews of over a dozen law enforcement and civilian witnesses; physical evidence collected on the scene; Metro Transit video footage and diagrams; DNA, ballistics and forensics evidence; the autopsy and toxicology reports; photographs, and other evidence. After this thorough review, the U.S. Attorney’s Office concluded that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer who was involved in the shooting used excessive force or possessed the requisite criminal intent at the time of the events.
According to the evidence, the shooting took place at 9:06 p.m. on March 12, 2015. The Metro Transit Police officer was dispatched to the Potomac Avenue station to respond to a report of an unauthorized person inside one of the Metro tunnels. Metro personnel had seen the individual, later-identified as Mr. Gross, running through the tunnels between the two stations wearing a T-shirt, boxer shorts, no shoes, sweating profusely, and carrying a large branch.
Once inside the tunnel, the officer encountered Mr. Gross. The two were face-to-face on an elevated 21-inch catwalk that is adjacent to the tracks – including a 750-volt “third rail” – on which the Metro trains run. The officer greeted Mr. Gross but he did not reply. When they were within 10 feet of one another, Mr. Gross pulled out a large branch from behind his back, which was later determined to be three feet long, 2.5 inches wide, and approximately three pounds. He held the branch waist high, pointing it at the officer as he continued to advance. Mr. Gross did not comply with the officer’s order to drop the branch and instead advanced more rapidly. Train marker signs protruding from the walls prevented the officer from safely backing up without risking hitting a sign and falling onto the live wire. Drawing a firearm, the officer warned, “Drop the stick or I’ll shoot you!” Mr. Gross continued to advance and the officer fired one round. Mr. Gross then began to sprint toward the officer, who fired three more times. Mr. Gross then used his body weight to thrust the branch at the officer, striking the officer in the hands and arms. The officer fired one more round, and Mr. Gross fell to the tracks. Mr. Gross, 35, was shot a total of five times, with injuries to his chest, abdomen, trunk, chin, and palm.
Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights laws, prosecutors must establish beyond a reasonable doubt not only that an officer’s use of force was excessive, but also that the officer willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right. Proving “willfulness” is a heavy burden, and means that it must be proven that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. Accident, mistake, fear, negligence and bad judgment do not establish such a criminal violation. After a careful, thorough and independent review of the evidence, federal prosecutors have found insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer used excessive force under the circumstances known at the time or acted with the requisite criminal intent. Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed without prosecution.
The Justice Department remains 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.