An investigation determined that officers Daniel Houtz and Ryan Sheehan reasonably believed that 37-year-old Christian Parker posed a serious, immediate threat to them and a third officer at the scene, according to a news release from Fairfax County County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano.
“This investigation leads me to conclude that both Ofc. Houtz and Ofc. Sheehan were reasonable in fearing that Parker intended to either kill an officer on scene or cause serious bodily injury,” Descano wrote. “…It was therefore legally permissible for both [officers] to use the level of force they employed.”
Descano confirmed that the Fairfax County Police Department had been searching for Parker at the time of the shooting after he fired a gun inside his brother’s apartment in Reston during “an altercation” on June 26.
CA Descano's report on the 6/30/2022 officer involved shooting at Springfield Mall. pic.twitter.com/vnHluKnP4q
— Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Descano (@FairfaxCountyCA) October 12, 2022
According to the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, fugitive detectives obtained a search warrant for Parker’s cell phone, allowing them to track his location. A “ping” alerted Houtz, Sheehan and an officer Monahan that he was at Springfield Town Center around 4 p.m. on June 30.
The officers found Parker’s vehicle in the parking lot outside the mall’s Target and boxed it in while he was in the driver’s seat. As shown in body camera footage released by the FCPD, the officers called for Parker to show his hands multiple times.
According to Descano, the officers reported that they saw Parker reach for a handgun. The officers said in statements that Parker started yelling and waving the gun, eventually moving his finger to the trigger.
“Due to the handgun being swung side to side, Mr. Parker’s finger being on the trigger, and Mr. Paker’s [sic] continued refusal to comply with commands, Ofc. Houltz felt he and Ofc. Monahan were in imminent danger of death and Ofc. Houltz discharged his weapon,” the commonwealth’s attorney said.
Sheehan fired his weapon as well, apparently believing that Parker had shot at Houltz, according to Descano. Both officers fired four shots each, hitting Parker with six of them.
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department transported Parker to a hospital, where he died that afternoon.
According to Descano’s statement, Parker’s fiancée told his office in an interview that she talked to Parker after the incident at his brother’s apartment, and he said “he would rather die than go back to jail.”
It’s unclear whether Parker served time in Fairfax County or elsewhere, but the county’s circuit court told FFXnow that it couldn’t find any past criminal cases under his name. The commonwealth’s attorney’s office said it had nothing to add beyond the released statement.
Descano said the statement from Parker’s fiancée “lends credence” to the police officers’ account of his behavior. While Sheehan was incorrect in thinking that Parker had fired his weapon, the perception “was reasonable based on the facts and circumstances presented to him,” Descano said.
The shooting at Springfield Town Center came during a period of high-profile gun incidents in Fairfax County. Just 10 days earlier, Tysons Corner Center was evacuated after three gunshots were fired, and on July 7, a police officer shot and killed a man in McLean who was experiencing a mental health crisis.
Noah Settles, a 22-year-old from D.C., was indicted last month for the shots-fired incident in Tysons, while the McLean police shooting remains under investigation.
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