The Bucks County, Pennsylvania prosecutor has ruled the shooting of an “arrestee” was neither justified nor criminal, but “excused.” The shooting began with scuffle between a 6’4″, 240-pound non-compliant inmate and officers that took place as the suspect tried to conceal and then flush what looks like a bag of drugs. After shouting “TASER!”, one officer draws and fires his handgun into the gut of the suspect.
Even though the officer carried his TASER in front of his firearm on his strong side, in violation of department policy, he only faced administrative leave until his April 10th retirement.
“After careful consideration, I have determined that [the officer’s] shooting of arrestee Brian Riling on March 3, 2019, was neither justified, nor criminal, but was excused,” Weintraub wrote in a letter to New Hope Police Chief Michael Cummings.
Weintraub said the law excuses the shooting officer’s conduct from criminal prosecution because of his “honest but mistaken” belief he was deploying his Taser at the time he discharged his service weapon.
Here is the video of the incident. A note caution for violent content and NSFW language.
The media report goes on to cover the district attorney’s reasoning behind his decision not to charge – or exonerate – the lawman.
However, the letter continues, because the officer believed he was deploying his Taser and not wielding his service firearm, he did not possess the criminal mental state required to be guilty of a crime under state law.
As noted in Weintraub’s letter, Section 304 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code (Title 18) states that a person has a defense to a criminal charge if he makes a mistake as a matter of fact for which there is a reasonable explanation or excuse.
Investigation of the incident further revealed the officer wore his Taser on his right side, in front of his firearm, in violation of police department policies.
Policy dictates officers should wear their Tasers on their non-dominant side, in what is known as a cross-draw position.
This violation of policy, however, does not constitute a violation of law, the post said.
In reviewing the totality of the circumstances, Weintraub also considered the officer’s decades of service to the citizens of New Hope as evidenced by dozens of commendations and letters, as compared to relatively few minor historical infractions on his service record, the post said.
Brian Riling is probably lucky to have survived the incident. Look for him to cash a substantial settlement check from an upcoming lawsuit he’ll no doubt file against those involved.