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Witnesses Recount Feb. 18 Shooting

Chief Cook offers condolences to Sellers family.

Marshall Love and Melinda Sigal pay their respects at the scene where Taft Sellers was killed in an Alexandria police-related shooting Feb. 18. Both witnessed the incident from across Duke Street.

Marshall Love and Melinda Sigal pay their respects at the scene where Taft Sellers was killed in an Alexandria police-related shooting Feb. 18. Both witnessed the incident from across Duke Street. Photo by Jeanne Theismann.

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Police Chief Earl Cook answers questions related to the shooting at a press conference held Feb. 25.

— Alexandria Police Chief Earl Cook offered his condolences to the family of Taft Sellers in a Feb. 25 press conference that detailed the investigative process in place regarding the city's first police-related shooting since 2009.

“I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences to the Sellers family,” Cook said. “I have been in constant contact with the family and offered them my support.”

Alexandria police officers responded to a call in the 3400 block of Duke Street Feb. 18 for the report of a domestic dispute that resulted in the death of the 30-year-old Sellers, a former Marine and 2001 graduate of T.C. Williams High school.

Cook said Monday there are still several questions surrounding the shooting, including how many officers were involved and how many shots were fired. An internal police investigation is underway in addition to a separate one conducted by the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office.

“My presumption is my officers will always act with good judgment and based on training,” Cook said. “Our officers are trained to respond to a threat and I make an assumption that they had a threat and they responded to a threat. Other than that I await the investigation.”

While Cook declined to confirm if Sellers fired a weapon, witnesses saw the victim holding a gun and fire a shot before officers returned fire.

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In a photo taken at 1:44 p.m. Feb. 18, a police officer restrains an unidentified woman trying to reach Taft Sellers during the standoff on Duke Street.

“I saw the victim crouched on the steps with a gun,” said Marshall Love, who was directly across the street in the McDonald's parking lot when the shooting took place. “I remember thinking 'He's got a chance to let this go. He can't win this. This is a losing situation. He should just surrender. '”

Love and his colleague, Alexandria resident Melinda Sigal, both heard a single shot followed closely by a series of shots.

“A gun was clearly visible [in the hands of Sellers] although it didn't appear he was aiming at anyone in particular,” Love added.

Time stamps on photos taken by Sigal range from 1:43 p.m. just prior to the shooting to 1:49 p.m. when police began marking the scene at the intersection of Duke Street and Arell Court with crime tape.

“We treat any loss of life as a homicide,” said Cook, who noted that the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave per departmental policy. “The officers understand they are under investigation until the Commonwealth's Attorney completes his investigation.”

Cook said the investigative process will take “some weeks” to complete.

“We felt we needed to reach out to the community to let them know we will do a complete and thorough investigation,” Cook said. “I assure you that details will be made available when the investigation is completed.”

According to his LinkedIn profile, Sellers was expecting to graduate this year from Strayer University with a BA in acquisition and contract management.

“I hope everyone finds some peace in this,” Love said. “You don't ever forget hearing gunshots or seeing the body on the steps. You don't forget that imagery. But there should have been a way out sooner. It didn't have to get to this point.”

Cook asked that anyone who witnessed or has information regarding the incident to call the Alexandria Police Department's Criminal Investigations Section at 703-746-6711.