The Police Executive Research Foundation completed its April 2023 Fairfax County Police Department, Review of Issues Surrounding Recent Police Shooting Incidents. Released online last week to the public, the 17-page report cites a significant uptick in police shooting incidents, examines some possible causes and provides recommendations.
Fairfax County police officers have been involved in at least eight police shooting incidents since July 19, 2021, with three fatal. In contrast, during the seven years before July 19, 2021, there were a total of eight police shooting incidents. Chief Kevin Davis became chief of FCPD in May 2021.
“The starkest commonality is that five of the seven incidents involved a person experiencing some type of mental health crisis," according to the report.
PERF noted that "none of the officers involved in the seven PSIs examined was trained in Integrating Communications, Assessment, and Tactics (ICAT) program at the time of the critical incident." PERF designed ICAT to give officers more tools, skills and options for handling critical incidents by recommending changes to police use of force policies and training to incorporate de-escalation tactics.
On March 3, 2023, Chief Kevin Davis of the Fairfax County Police Department and the D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) agreed to an examination of the agency’s police shooting incidents. The agreement came immediately after the fatal Feb. 22 police shooting of unarmed shoplifting suspect Timothy Johnson, 37, in Tysons following a foot pursuit. According to an FCPD Public Affairs Bureau online post, the review would include all of 2021, and offer guidance to the agency regarding its foot pursuit policy.
PERF’s review is divided into six sections with recommendations for each: I. Mental Health-Related Calls; II. Review of FCPD’s Use-of-Force Policy; III. FCPD’s Failure to Outfit Its Street Crimes Unit with Body-Worn Cameras; IV. FCPD’s Investigation of Its Members; V. Foot Pursuits; and VI. Collecting and Managing Mental Health Data. PERF’s focus would not be on any singular event or individual police officer but on pinpointing areas where FCPD could improve its core business practices through recommendations, citing performance patterns, deficiencies, or trends.
When PERF examined the seven police shooting incidents since 2021 in its review, it did not examine the fatal police shooting of Timothy Johnson, the eighth police shooting incident. On Feb. 22, Johnson, suspected of stealing sunglasses, was killed during a nighttime foot pursuit by FCPD officers that ended when Johnson was shot through the chest. PERF did not examine officer reports, but it commented on the incident in its review based on the FCPD’s public website video.
PERF also did not examine FCPD’s most recent fatal police shooting incident on May 11 since it occurred after its review.
On May 11 Brandon Lemagne, 38, of Newport News, was shot at close range after attacking and attempting to disarm a police officer in Mount Vernon. Lemagne was pronounced dead at the scene. Master Police Officer Kenyatta Momon, a 24-year veteran, and Police Officer First Class Christopher Grubb, an 8-year veteran of the department, discharged their firearms. The incident remains under investigation.
Body Worn Camera video was shown at a press conference on May 25, and that video was missing frames that showed bystanders when Grubb fired multiple shots, and frames that show Lamagne’s empty hands and the fatal shooting of Lamagne. The omission of those frames raised questions of transparency. See http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/news/2023/jun/06/two-bwc-views-fatal-police-shooting/
"Like with any major incident, every aspect of this officer-involved shooting will be fully investigated to determine if the officers followed FCPD General Orders and Standard Operating Procedures," said Chairman Jeff McKay. McKay said he would “withhold judgment until I see the results of that investigation, which is ongoing."
Supervisor Rodney Lusk (D-Franconia), chair of the Safety and Security Committee, declined to comment on the May 11 police shooting incident. "Supervisor Lusk has no comment on the May 11th officer-involved shooting as that internal investigation is still ongoing," said a member of his staff in an email.
When the Chief addresses incidents involving the police that are under investigation, he, too, is expected to withhold judgment until the results of the investigation. But Davis described the officers’ actions as “more than justified.”
“I think it is very important that the chief remain neutral during press conferences and stick to the facts of the event with little to no commentary," said Rev. Vernon Walton. Walton is one of ten members of the Fairfax County Police Reform Matrix Action Working Group charged with transforming a matrix of community suggestions collected by Lusk’s office, into an action plan. Walton is also the senior pastor at Vienna Baptist Church.
Asked about the FCPD video of the May 11 fatal shooting and Chief Davis’s press conference, Walton said, "Whew. Where do I start? Transparency is transparency. It leaves no room for ambiguity. I would think that the intent of the release of BWC (body worn camera footage) during a press conference is to provide the public, supervisors, victims' families, and other interested parties an accurate depiction of events. I am not certain as to why significant portions of the video would not have been shared during the press conference. Particularly since the edited portions provide a very clear view of what seems to be the fatal shots fired.”
Diane Burkley Alejandro added, "How can FCPD credibly assert it is being ‘fully transparent’ when it leaves out major parts of the BWC that tend to raise questions with the officers' actions? This is not a movie; it should not be left on the cutting room floor."
Alejandro is also a member of the matrix working group, and lead advocate for Fairfax ACLU People Power. "It is … inappropriate for the chief to prejudge the investigation by saying that the officers' conduct was ‘more than appropriate,’” she said.
"It is important to remember that the decisions that officers make when facing the potential use of deadly force against them are made in a matter of seconds in the most stressful situation anyone can ever be put in,” McKay said. “These situations must be looked at in their totality.”
PERF recommends that the "FCPD should update its use-of-force policy to indicate that force may not be used against a person unless, under the totality of the circumstances, that force is necessary and proportional."
This is the second time FCPD has received the recommendation.
PERF brought to light that in June 2021, in a research project supported through an agreement between the Fairfax County Office of the Independent Police Auditor and the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), its Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice recommended that FCPD incorporate near-similar language.
"A police officer may not use force against a person unless, under the totality of the circumstances, said force is necessary and proportional," stated the recommendation. FCPD declined to update its use-of-force policy to include that language.
In its Review of FCPD’s Use-of-Force Policy, PERF commended FCPD for going beyond the "objectively reasonable" standard of Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989). "Further, before the use of deadly force, the policy requires that ‘all other [force] options have been exhausted, do not reasonably lend themselves to the circumstances, are not feasible, or have already proven to be ineffective.’"
PERF adds that FCPD should go further, providing two recommendations. "FCPD should add ‘proportionality’ to the definitions in its use-of-force policy. Defining the term, which is interspersed throughout the policy, will help to clearly define expectations … FCPD should update its use-of-force policy to indicate that force may not be used against a person unless, under the totality of the circumstances, that force is necessary and proportional. This will further align FCPD with the ‘sanctity of life’ language already in its use-of-force policy."
PERF discussed in its review the Feb. 22 fatal police shooting of Timothy Johnson as an example of "where proportionality and better critical thinking could have affected the outcome.” PERF reviewed video of the incident on FCPD’s public website. The video seems to show a sergeant chasing after a man and then pulling out his gun and firing at him. According to the PERF review, "a clear concept of proportionality and use of the [critical decision-making model] may have led the officer to think through other available options from the start and may have inspired a different response." states the PERF review.
Alejandro emphasized the importance of examining critical incidents in their entirety, proportionally dissecting the actions that transpire during a deadly officer-involved shooting such as the one on May 11.
"Is it appropriate for Officer Mormon to fire three times point blank at the suspect when it was clear that his hands were empty, with no weapons? The use of force rule required de-escalation. There was none," Alejandro said.
She also questioned, in the May 11 incident, if it was appropriate for FCPD Officer Grubb to fire 18 shots in the suspect's direction when bystanders were around. Grubb was shooting toward the moving vehicle with Lemange and the abducted officer inside. In the body-worn camera footage, individuals from the community can be observed running seemingly within the line of fire.
PERF states, "FCPD’s policy about shooting into moving vehicles can also be improved," describing it as "permissive and contains unnecessary, vague verbiage; the policy lacks clarity, and we recommend that FCPD replace it with clear language like that found in NYPD’s policy."
The NYPD's 1972 policy is "Members of service SHALL NOT: Discharge their firearms at or from a moving vehicle unless deadly physical force is being used against the member of service or another person present by means other than [the] moving vehicle."
PERF’s review found that FCPD investigates its own officers’ critical incidents. PERF referenced its investigation of the Aug. 2, 2022, shooting in Falls Church. During a drug investigation, an officer shot and wounded a man that night. According to PERF, "When a police officer uses deadly force, regardless of whether it ends in death, the incident demands a comprehensive and objective investigation. It is becoming common for outside entities to conduct independent investigations or reviews of an agency’s PSIs (police shooting incidents)."
PERF cited missed opportunities by FCPD during the Aug. 2, 2022 incident. PERF said that FCPD did not try to obtain surveillance footage from any businesses in the area and therefore missed the chance to fill in some gaps generated by the lack of BWC footage.
"FCPD investigators did not document their efforts to corroborate the shooting officer’s purported justification for firing his weapon. Finally, FCPD does not appear to have thoroughly reviewed the (however brief) vehicle pursuit that took place just before the shooting to determine whether it was within FCPD policy," PERF states.
In the 2021 University of Texas at San Antonio report, researchers noted, "[FCPD] should consider adopting a foot pursuit policy to help reduce force and injuries to officers and suspects." FCPD still has not adopted a foot pursuit policy.
PERF encourages the agency to do so as "foot pursuits carry inherent risk to both the subject being chased and the officer, according to PERF, and officers should consider alternatives." PERF stressed the importance of continually assessing the decision to pursue.
PERF viewed the Feb. 22 video of the foot pursuit of Timothy Johnson, available online. PERF noted, "a sergeant who appeared to have his gun at the ready while chasing a man who stole sunglasses." PERF recommended a provision in the policy "advising officers that under most circumstances, they should not pursue with their guns drawn.”
As of March 28, 2023, PERF reported that approximately one-third of the FCPD officers had undergone ICAT training adding, “The critical decision-making model (CDM) is the cornerstone of ICAT.”
The ICAT program provides officers with “more tools, skills, and options for handling different types of critical incidents, especially those that involve subjects who are acting erratically because of mental illness or behavioral crisis and who are unarmed or armed with a weapon other than a firearm.”
“Training officers to more effectively slow down and think — rather than quickly react and respond — can affect their ultimate decisions."
PERF recommends that FCPD "expedite its plans to provide ICAT training to those members who have not yet received it and prioritize the officers most likely to interact with members of the public."
The ICAT approach is built upon the critical decision-making model (CDM). The ICAT training program offered by PERF strongly emphasizes the ever-changing nature of police interactions with individuals in crisis. It stresses the significance of incorporating de-escalation techniques into police training and operations.
According to a staff member of Supervisor Rodney Lusk, "The Board’s Safety and Security Committee will review the Police Executive Research Forum’s findings at a future meeting."
PERF’s April 2023 FCPD Review of Issues Surrounding Recent Police-Shootings Incidents can be found online at