Jury acquits officer who shot disoriented man with stun gun
FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — A northern Virginia jury on Friday acquitted a police officer who was charged with misdemeanor assault after firing a stun gun at an unarmed Black man who appeared disoriented.
Fairfax County Police Officer Tyler Timberlake was charged with assault in June 2020 after bodycam video showed him arriving and quickly firing his stun gun at Lamonta Gladney after other officers had spent several minutes trying to persuade him to get into an ambulance to go to a detox center.
Bodycam footage shows that Gladney had been wandering on a residential street in the county’s Gum Springs neighborhood. After shooting Gladney with a stun gun, Timberlake then used his knees to pin Gladney to the ground and punched him in the back of the head as Gladney cried out. Timberlake then used the stun gun again, pressing the device into the back of the man’s neck.
News outlets that covered the trial reported that Gladney had PCP in his system, according to drug tests.
Timberlake “had been involved in a lot of arrests for PCP,” Timberlake’s lawyer, Brandon Shapiro, said after the verdict. “He recognized it right away.” Shapiro said expert testimony showed that people high on PCP can quickly become violent.
Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano issued a statement Friday saying he was disappointed in the verdict, but not surprised.
“It is notoriously hard to prosecute a case like this, but my standard of prosecuting a case isn’t whether it’s easy or hard,” Descano said. “My standard is doing what I think is right to hold people, including law enforcement, accountable for their actions.”
He also said that “(t)rue justice will be achieved when my Black and brown neighbors don’t have to fear for their well-being when they leave their homes.”
When Timberlake was arrested he was also criticized by his then-police chief, Ed Roessler, who called the use of force a violation of department policy that ignored “the sanctity of human life.”
“Our nation is righteously angry at the law enforcement profession, as am I,” Roessler said at the time, a reference to the protests occurring across the nation against police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police just a few weeks earlier.
Roessler’s criticism of the officer prompted the Fairfax Fraternal Order of Police to call for Roessler’s resignation.
Gladney has filed a civil suit against Timberlake in federal court.
The current Fairfax County police chief, Kevin Davis, said in a written statement after the verdict that he respects the jury’s decision and the department will now work to conclude its internal investigation.
“Policing in America is difficult,” Davis said. “So much of our success as a police department is dependent upon community partnerships. We understand and accept the scrutiny associated with our profession. Our commitment to deliver world class and constitutional policing services to our residents remains our top priority.”