Police hoped to apprehend Christian Parker, 37, before he entered his car parked outside Springfield Town Center.
“Best case scenario; we get him before he even gets into that car,” said Fairfax County Police Department Chief Kevin Davis.
But the seconds that permitted Parker to get into his car as police vehicles blocked his car from both sides also gave Parker time to reveal a Glock semi automatic pistol, a weapon officers knew he had stolen from his brother, pointed at a family member, and discharged in their parent’s Reston home four days before.
“Obviously, he was in some type of crisis,” said Davis.
Parker was the first of two men shot and killed by the police in apparent mental health crises. Police shot and killed Jasper Aaron Lynch, 26, in a McLean home on July 7.
Police’s fugitive task force made apprehending him a priority, Davis said. Officers knew he and his car were outside the Springfield Town Center on June 30, 2022.
“It’s an absolute priority of the Fairfax County Police Department to take that person into custody because he remains a danger to himself, and his family and others. It was a priority for us to find him and apprehend him,” said Davis last week at a press conference on July 22, 2022.
Three officers who surrounded Parker’s car ordered Parker to drop his gun.
“Hands, hands, show me your hands,” they said. “Put your hands in the air.”
“Put your hands in the air, I will shoot you,” an officer warned.
“Gun, gun, he’s got a gun,” they warned each other.
“Drop your gun, drop your gun,” said another.
“You’re going to get shot,” said another.
First-Class Daniel Houtz and Officer Ryan Sheehan discharged their firearms, according to police reports. PFC Houtz is an eight-year veteran of the Franconia Police District Station and OFC Sheehan is a two-year veteran of the Mount Vernon Police District Station. Both officers were assigned to the Summer Crime Initiative Team.
Police called Fire and Rescue, and after determining Parker was no longer a threat, broke into the car and attempted to render aid. Parker died at the scene.
“They’re begging him to drop his gun and he just doesn’t,” said Davis.
In Fairfax County, police release body worn camera footage within 30 days of a police involved shooting except when to do so would interfere with the investigation.
“The officers were faced with a very dangerous situation,” said Davis. “They are protecting the community, they are dealing with a person who is armed and dangerous, and they are in a crowded shopping center parking lot filled with mothers, fathers and children,” said Davis.
“I think these officers did the very best they could,” he said.
Civilian members of police oversight groups have called for the chief of police to maintain a neutral position on police actions until after the internal affairs and police auditor investigations are complete.
TACTICAL POSITIONING is a tool police use to try to prevent officer-involved shootings, using time and space to de-escalate situations involving mental health crises.
But in this case, concerns about families walking in the parking lot prevented that approach, Davis said.
“If we were to have backed up or if we were to have tactically repositioned ourselves, retreated, it would have afforded him the opportunity to do a number of different things that would have been very dangerous to the community at large,” Davis said.
“There were many, many civilians who were walking right by this scene as it unfolded,” Davis said. “It could have been a much much more dramatic situation if he got out of the car with a gun.”
POLICE SHOOTING video “is never pretty, especially when somebody’s life is lost,” said Davis.
Police released body worn camera and dash cam footage; viewers were warned that the footage could be disturbing.
Davis said: “There now exists an absolute expectation that police chiefs do two things that we never before were afforded the capacity to do,” he said. “Number one, provide an assessment regarding the performance and conduct of police actions in real time and, number two, publicly release body worn camera footage to the community and to the media in a timely manner.”
There have been four officer involved shootings in 2022, even though the yearly average has been 1.5 a year the last decade, and last year there was only one, Davis said. Three of the four incidents this year involved people in mental health crises, including Parker.
“That’s not lost on us,” said Davis.
Davis was asked if a mental health clinician could have been on scene. He said they are working in a co-responder model with mental health clinicians.
But in this case, Davis said, a clinician would not have been used because of the danger of the situation.
Supervisor Rodney Lusk held a July 21 virtual town hall meeting on public safety to discuss recent police activity and concerns by residents.
A criminal investigation into the use of force is being conducted by the Major Crimes Bureau. The officers have been placed on restricted duty pending the outcome of an administrative investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau.
An independent review will be conducted by the Fairfax County Independent Police Auditor, Richard G. Schott. The Office of the Independent Police Auditor was established by the Board of Supervisors on the recommendation of the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission, in the wake of the police shooting death of John Geer of Springfield in August 2013. The recommendations of the commission also led to the timeline for release of information.