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    As Purcellville awaits final report, outrage grows over youth’s shooting

    A final ruling on whether the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old Loudoun Valley student is justified is expected to be released at the end of next week, according to Loudoun Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman.

    “We're shooting for the end of next week if we can coordinate with Virginia State Police and get an opportunity to reach out to the family,” Plowman said.

    Christian Sierra was shot and killed by police May 24.

    According to a report from Virginia State Police, Purcellville Police received a 911 call at about 2:12 p.m. from someone at a home in the 100 block of Frazer Drive. The caller was seeking help for a teenager threatening suicide. When police reached the scene, Sierra, armed with a knife, lunged at an officer and was subsequently shot.

    The Virginia State Police’s Police-Shooting Investigative Team from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Fairfax Field Office conducted the investigation into the incident.

    While friends and family of Sierra wait for the final ruling, a group only calling themselves “Your Citizens of Loudoun County” has written emails to Gov. Terry McAuliffe, calling for lawmakers to create an independent agency to investigate police shootings in Virginia. They're also asking that it be made mandatory that all police officers undergo Crisis Intervention Training – something they allege the officer who shot Sierra had not participated in.

    The email, which contained several accusations toward police in general, has raised the ire of several law enforcement personnel, particularly Tom Simmons, chaplain of the Purcellville Volunteer Rescue Squad, who, in a response to the group and the Rev. Dr. Jack Stagman, president of the nonprofit America Restored, called the correspondence to the governor “the same kind of agitprop that stoked the fires of rioting and looting, mob violence and the tearing of the social fabric in Ferguson so recently.”

    “I'm astonished you [Stagman] would associate yourself, and the people who stand with you in local Christian leadership, with this kind of Marxist propaganda waged against our local law enforcement and civil structures,” Simmons said in the email, forwarded to the Times-Mirror earlier this week.

    Stagman did not return calls for comment.

    However, despite the rhetoric, Joe Lacaria, executive director of the nonprofit Family Alliance Network of Loudoun, which offered its services to Sierra's family, said the outcome should be to prevent a similar situation from happening again.

    “There's nothing we can say or do that can bring that kid back, but we can do something to prevent it from happening again,” Lacaria said.

    Lacaria said a deeper look into how well-trained Loudoun's law enforcement is to deal with situations involving mentally ill individuals should be addressed.

    Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman initiated a CIT program for deputies and other county law enforcement after taking office, but the training is voluntary.

    Lacaria said not all law enforcement officers want to go through the training and see it as a waste of their time.

    Chapman agreed that all law enforcement should want to participate in a CIT program because the benefits outweigh the costs.

    “You can't please everyone all the time,” Chapman said.

    “The most key thing to remember is if you have everyone in the community working on these issues, you have a chance of a much better outcome on these issues,” Chapman said.

    So far there have been five classes that have graduated from a 40-hour CIT program. All of Loudoun's dispatchers will have completed the training by October. The sheriff said he hopes to have employees of the Adult Detention Center complete the training soon through a $35,000 grant the agency received last year from the attorney general's office.

    Chapman said implementing mandatory CIT would be costly, especially with 500 deputies in the department, but it would save taxpayer money by allowing law enforcement to resolve issues on the scene rather than spending hours at the hospital and in transport with a patient to a mental health facility.


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    Loudoun Business Journal - Summer 2014

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