A federal jury cleared Washington, D.C., authorities of liability yesterday in the fatal police shooting of a black teenager after his family filed a civil rights lawsuit challenging the tactics of a specialized police unit active in mostly minority neighborhoods, the Washington Post reports. The panel of five white jurors and three black jurors rejected claims that police used excessive force and were negligent in the death of Ralphael Briscoe, 18, who was shot by Officer Chad Leo, 35, in 2011. The case hinged on a video recorded by a pole-mounted D.C. police camera, which appears to show Briscoe running away from officers when he was hit. It also appears to show an object in his right hand; police recovered an inoperable BB gun, designed to replicate a Walther PPK .380 handgun, near Briscoe's body.
On the stand, Leo testified that he saw Briscoe clutching at the waistband of his pants and turning toward the unmarked SUV Leo was driving. “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. “I was in fear for my life. . . . I thought he was going to shoot.” Billy Ponds, an attorney for Briscoe’s mother, said, “I have never in my entire career over 31 years as an attorney ever questioned the verdict of a jury. I question this one. We hoped this case would be a symbol that police cannot continue to kill young black men. It has to stop.”