Last week, Commonwealth’s Attorney S. Randolph Sengel announced that he has received the criminal case file in the shooting of a Springfield teenager. Sengel’s receipt of the file is the first step in an ongoing investigation of the incident, in which an off-duty Alexandria police officer opened fire at a moving vehicle in the parking lot of a west-end restaurant — killing Aaron Brown, 18.
According to court documents, Officer Carl Stowe fired his police-issue Glock into a 1995 Jeep Cherokee at 3 a.m. on Feb. 25. Police say that Stowe was responding to one of the restaurant’s employees, who told him that a group of teenagers had left without paying their bill. Brown died at the scene.
“I have conducted a preliminary review of the file, and since the incident, I have devoted considerable time to ongoing review of the evidence and witness statements as they have become available,” Sengel wrote. “My review of this case will include re-interviewing witnesses, additional forensic consultation and follow-up investigation.”
Sengel said that he expects his investigation of the Police Department’s case file to take 60 to 90 days. Patrick Malone, an attorney who is representing the Brown family, responded to the announcement with a letter to the commonwealth’s attorney.
“As attorney for the Brown family, I appreciate your desire to make a thorough and careful investigation of all of the facts before deciding whether to bring criminal charges against the officer who shot Aaron," Malone wrote in the letter. “However, the city pledged that this would be a transparent investigation, and therefore I call on you to make public the complete results of the Alexandria Police Department’s investigation along with any forensic tests performed by other agencies.”
The Police Department and the commonwealth’s attorney’s office have refused to release the case file. In Malone’s letter, he said that the Brown family wants to examine the file and all the evidence related to the case — especially the Jeep that was involved in the incident.
“In the seven weeks since this shooting, our many requests to look at this evidence have been rebuffed,” Malone wrote. “Inspection by us of the evidence and release to the public of the investigative file would do nothing to harm the rights of the officer and would go a long way toward reassuring everyone that the investigation is being conducted in a fair and independent way.”
Police officers who are working secondary employment are responsible for upholding the policy directives of the department, including the ones outlining the use of force. Directive 10.32.04 outlines the use of lethal force when shooting at a moving vehicle. The directive authorizes lethal force when “a vehicle is operated in a manner deliberately intended to strike an employee.”
Sengel’s investigation will make a ruling on Stowe’s actions. If Sengel determines that he acted within policy, Stowe may return to active duty. If the commonwealth’s attorney determines that the officer was not following policy, criminal charges could be filed in the circuit court.