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Chief Still Withholding Officer’s Name in Fatal Herndon Shooting
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Chief Still Withholding Officer’s Name in Fatal Herndon Shooting

Temporary restraining order to not release name vacated by judge.

Fairfax County chief of police Edwin Roessler has yet to release the name of the 16-year veteran officer who fatally shot Mohammad Azim Doudzai, 32, at his Herndon-area home on Jan. 16 this year. The chief met with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in closed session on Feb. 14 to explain in greater detail why he has still not released the name.

In the afternoon on Valentine’s Day, Roessler announced in a statement: “The process is a methodical one with multiple layers. I’m cognizant of the time this is taking, however, this case has presented us with volumes of data that warrant thorough examination.”

He went on to say the FBI has been assisting Major Crimes and Intelligence Divisions with data review for a risk assessment for the unnamed officer and their family.

“Once the risk assessment is complete,” Roessler said, “I’ll immediately start my decision-making process regarding the name release.”

On Feb. 7, FCPD said the unnamed officer had filed a temporary restraining order to keep the name from being released. At that point, the order asserted, Roessler was “poised” to release the name.

A preliminary injunction hearing was scheduled for U.S. District Court on Feb. 9, however according to a Feb. 8 order from Judge T.S. Ellis III, that hearing was canceled.

The judge said both parties involved confirmed Roessler “has discovered new evidence that must be carefully examined and investigated.”

The initial restraining order contended that disclosing the officer’s name would violate the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment by creating a risk of danger to them. With the name’s disclosure no longer imminent, Ellis III said, he vacated the order.

Ten days following the shooting, Roessler announced his threat assessment regarding the officer was incomplete. The 10 days is in itself significant, in that it’s part of new policy for FCPD that was recommended by the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission and approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors: Within 10 days of an officer-involved deployment of deadly force, or any other officer-involved incident where another person suffered life-threatening injuries, the chief is to release the name, rank, assignment, tenure of the officer(s) involved and the current status of the officer(s), the policy reads.

“If the Chief has determined a credible threat to the officer’s safety and/or the safety of their family cannot be fully investigated or mitigated within the 10 days and additional time is needed,” the policy continues, “the Chief shall inform the Board in writing — through the Chairman of the Board and the Chair of the Board’s Public Safety Committee — of his decision not to release the information or to delay the release of the information, and his reasons therefore.”

THIS IS THE FIRST such incident since the policy was adopted. Board of Supervisors chairman Sharon Bulova said so far, Roessler has followed the new policy to the letter in this case.

“I think our policy is reasonable, fair to everyone,” Bulova said. “It does require transparency — for the name to be released in 10 days, it’s a good period of time to make sure all information and facts, materials surrounding the incident, have been reviewed.”

Police had previously released that officers were called to Doudzai’s home after a call from two of his brothers, on their way to the hospital after having been shot by him. They had gone to the house at the request of Doudzai’s girlfriend after an argument, police said.

A perimeter was set up by police around Doudzai’s residence, during which time they said multiple fires were set inside the house and there were several reports of gunfire.

Officers learned while negotiating with Doudzai there was an additional 29-year-old hostage, a non-related roommate, still inside the home. Officers decided to approach the home; when they did, Doudzai came out “with at least one knife in hand,” police said, and was shot.

The unnamed officer from the restraining order fired a service weapon, however police said other officers used less-lethal force on Doudzai as well.

The new communications policy lays out a specific time extension for the chief releasing an officer’s name and other information. However, it does specify “the Board and the public expect the Police Department to release other appropriate preliminary factual information and updates to the public as soon as possible.”

THE POLICY dictates the supervisors may review the chief’s decision at the next regularly scheduled board meeting and, if they deem it necessary, may “direct the Chief to release the name(s).”

It was in keeping with the policy that Roessler attended the board’s closed session on Feb. 14. So far they haven’t given him a directive to come forward with the officer’s name.

The Board of Supervisors approved policy also emphasizes that 10 days is a limit, not a standard, and the importance updating other information about the event.

The policy reads: “It is important to note the 10 day period is primarily related to the release of officer names and is only designed as a limit to not be exceeded without cause, not a recommended standard, and the Board and the public expect the Police Department to release other appropriate preliminary factual information and updates to the public as soon as possible.”

Bulova said it would be “unfortunate” if the board’s policy to release the name is ultimately blocked in court.

“If a judge chooses to overturn that policy,” she said, “that’s an issue, that I think people will be watching.”

The full Feb. 8 vacating order is available online here:

https://fcpdnews.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/020917-court-order.pdf.