- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) - A jury has cleared District of Columbia police of liability in the fatal shooting of a teenager whose family filed a lawsuit challenging a police tactic using plain-clothed officers and unmarked cars.

The federal jury found in favor of the Metropolitan Police Department and Officer Chad Leo on Thursday. They had been sued in the death of 18-year-old Ralphael Briscoe, who was shot in the back and buttocks by Leo on April 26, 2011.

As part of the lawsuit, Leo testified that he saw Briscoe clutching at his waistband and turning in his direction, saying he thought the teen was going to shoot, according to The Washington Post, (https://wapo.st/1DMK8Wd ).

Attorneys for Briscoe’s mother argued that an inoperable BB gun recovered near Briscoe’s body was planted there and that the teen was the victim of overaggressive police tactics aimed primarily at poor, black neighborhoods.

A video of the shooting released by federal court in Washington appears to show Briscoe running away from officers and rounding a corner when he was hit.

“The video doesn’t show what I saw. It doesn’t have the same perspective that I had,” said Leo, an 11-year police department veteran who graduated from Virginia Military Academy. “I was in fear for my life … I thought he was going to shoot.”

After the jury’s verdict was read Thursday, Briscoe’s mother, 46-year-old Bridzette Lane, wept without speaking. Her attorney expressed disappointment.

“I have never in my entire career over 31 years as an attorney ever questioned the verdict of a jury. I question this one,” said Billy Ponds, who argued that police shot the teen because he was escaping and then planted the BB gun. “We hoped this case would be a symbol that police cannot continue to kill young black men. It has to stop.”

Lane’s family said the teen didn’t own a BB gun. No fingerprints were found on the gun.

The four members of Leo’s team testified that they were in plainclothes and patrolling in an unmarked car in Washington’s Anacostia neighborhood when they pulled up to Briscoe and asked him whether he was armed, because he was “walking quick” and “looking around.” They said he didn’t answer and walked, then ran, away. The officers chased him.

Leo and his team were assigned to the Narcotics Special Investigations Division’s Gun Recovery Unit, tasked with investigating illegal guns, drugs and other crimes.

Some know such units as “jump-outs,” or confrontational encounters using ununiformed police in unmarked cars. In New York City, the tactic is known as “stop-and-frisk.”

Critics of jump-outs argue that they’re a form of racial profiling that disproportionately incarcerates minorities for low-level offenses. They also argue that they’re illegal because officers lack reasonable suspicion to stop a citizen.

The American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital Area has urged the D.C. Council to require police to report more data on jump-outs.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier has said the department has no “jump-out” units, per se. She did not provide hard numbers.


Information from: The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com

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