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Coalition Seeks U.S. Investigation into Shootings

Also seeks details of 62 previous civil rights complaints against county police.

— The Citizens Coalition for Police Accountability sent a letter to Assistant Attorney General Thomas C. Perez, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division on Aug. 16, requesting an investigation into the shooting deaths of six people over the past several years by Fairfax County Police officers.

At the CCPA Sept. 13 meeting, chaired by Executive Director Nicholas Beltrante, the letter was read to attendees urging that following the investigation the Justice Department should “seek a Federal Consent Decree pursuant to violations of Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242 ‘Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law,’ and Title 42, U.S.C. Section 14141, ‘Pattern and Practices.’” According to Beltrante, a summary of the six cases was attached to the letter as exhibits.

The Aug. 16 letter was followed up by a second letter to the Justice Department on Sept. 7 with a Freedom of Information Act request for a description of the 62 civil rights complaints filed with the Justice Department from 1987 to 2012 against the Fairfax County Police Department. According to Beltrante, Justice Department staff confirmed there have been 62 civil rights complaints but would not reveal the description or status of the complaints.

At the meeting, Beltrante introduced Michelle Evans Holden, whom he characterized as a victim of false arrest and police abuse. Holden, a former resident of Fairfax County, described in detail to the attendees what she characterized as a terrible experience with the Fairfax County Police Department in connection with a domestic violence case that began in August 2011. Beltrante mentioned to the attendees that her case was a classic example of the difficulty Fairfax County citizens continue to have in dealing with the police department.

A police citizen oversight organization, if it existed, could have investigated Holden’s case, and submitted their independent findings and recommendations to the Board of Supervisors without the bureaucratic cover the Fairfax County Police now has on all matters, Beltrante said. According to Holden, in the absence of such an oversight board, her only recourse was to hire an attorney, at a cost of $40,000, to fight a domestic assault and battery charge against her by her husband with the support of the Fairfax County Police. The police investigating the incident interviewed the husband, herself, and one of the sons who called the police. The investigating police officer decided to place Holden under arrest. Holden was charged with assaulting her husband. Holden and her son filed a formal complaint against the investigating officer for false arrest. Months later as the case unfolded, in November, the charge by Holden against the police was expanded to false testimony and malicious prosecution.

Eventually, after an unsuccessful appeal of a lower court ruling, a Circuit Court Judge directed her to pay for and attend a domestic violence course (five months duration), and accept a first time offender deal that provides for a dismissal of the case in two years. Holden remains on probation until the domestic violence course has been completed. She has filed for divorce, and moved out of the area. She attended the CCPA meeting to illustrate the importance of what the CCPA is attempting to accomplish. Holden said, “The Fairfax County police arresting officers were not interested in the facts, and absolutely arrogant” and “out of control. My son calls 911 and they arrest me.”

Holden is filing a civil rights complaint against the Fairfax County Police Department with the U.S. Department of Justice.

In other business, the CCPA elected new officers for its board: John Smucker as president and Bernard Tabarini as vice president.