What Happened to terrence?

September 11, 2016 


In the early morning hours, Terrence Sterling, 31, was riding home on his motorcycle from a bachelor party in Northwest Washington, DC. Two Metropolitan Police Department officers, Brian Trainer and Jordan Palmer, pursued Terrence despite receiving orders not to do so. At 3rd and M Streets NW, without turning on lights or sirens and in violation of MPD policy, Officer Palmer drove his cruiser into the intersection, blocking Terrence’s path and forcing him into a collision. Officer Trainer then rolled down the passenger side window of the vehicle and shot Terrence in the neck and back. Terrence died from these gunshots. 

Who was Terrence? 


Terrence LeDell Sterling was born on July 31, 1985 in Charlotte, NC. His family moved to Fort Washington, MD a few months later. Terrence was a trained HVAC technician who mainly worked at Leisure World, a retirement community, where his patience and kindness made him popular with residents. When not working long hours, he enjoyed riding with his motorcycle club and playing with his dog Jazzy, a Presa Canario. He was active in his church and community and close to his parents, with whom he lived. His family, friends, and coworkers remember an energetic and generous, hardworking and caring young man whose absence has left a hole in their hearts. 

What happened next? 


The local community responded quickly to news of Terrence's killing. Led by Terrence's friend Minister Steven Douglass and Black Lives Matter DC, protestors mobilized at 3rd and M Streets to call for swift action and transparency from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and Mayor Bowser. This did not happen. Over the next year and a half, under steady pressure from activists, journalists, and lawyers, the City slowly released information about the night of September 11. Below are significant dates in the case; more information about each can be found in the News section.

September 11, 2016

Terrence Sterling is killed by Officer Brian Trainer between 4:19 and 4:30 am.

September 12, 2016

Mayor Bowser announces that Officer Trainer failed to turn on his body camera until after the shooting, and that the two officers may have violated other general orders.

September 16, 2016

A large crowd of family and friends gathers in Forth Washington for a vigil in Terrence's honor.

September 26, 2016

Protestors led by BLM DC block rush hour traffic on New York Avenue to demand action, including release of body cam footage.

September 27, 2016

MPD releases body cam footage of the aftermath of the shooting. 

September 28, 2016

DC Medical Examiner rules Terrence's death a homicide resulting from gunshot wounds to the neck and back. DC releases the name of the officer responsible, 27-year-old Brian Trainer, a four-year veteran of the force.

December 16, 2016

The Sterling family files a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the District and MPD.

March 19, 2017

DC admits in response to the family's civil suit that officers pursued Terrence the night of the shooting, a violation of policy.

August 19, 2017

US Attorney's Office announces it has found insufficient evidence to charge Officer Trainer for federal or DC crimes. Mayor Bowser calls for Officer Trainer's resignation.

September 11, 2017

Activists gather at 3rd and M to commemorate the first anniversary of the shooting, following a year of regular meetings and protests.


December 5, 2017 

MPD's Use of Force Review Board determines the shooting death of Terrence Sterling  was unjustified and recommends Officer Trainer be fired.

february 21, 2018

The District reaches a $3.5 million settlement with the Sterling family in the civil case. 

April 11, 2018

Officer Brian Trainer's disciplinary hearing is held in Northwest DC.

May 11, 2018

MPD disciplinary panel recommends that Trainer be fired following the hearing. Trainer appeals to Police Chief Peter Newsham.

june 15, 2018

After being on paid leave for a year and nine months after the shooting, Trainer loses his appeal and is fired by MPD.

case closed, or justice denied?

As the timeline above shows, DC government and MPD demonstrated a consistent pattern throughout the case of a lack of transparency and slow release of information, even while pushing a narrative that "the process worked." The cost to them of Terrence's life was a nominal cash settlement and a single officer losing his job (after more than a year on paid leave). The cost to Terrence's family, friends, and community is incalculably greater. We do not believe this is justice, and we do not believe the City has done enough to ensure the safety of the community in the future. We need true accountability and transparency and an end to the unjust system of policing.

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