A police officer in Pennsylvania who shot and critically wounded an unarmed inmate he allegedly believed had drawn his Taser at the time instead of a gun will not face charges, the Bucks County district attorney’s office has said.
According to findings released by the office on Friday, District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub has determined that the officer who shot the inmate, Brian Riling, was “neither justified, nor criminal, but was excused” in the March incident.
Weintraub said in a letter to New Hope Police Chief Michael Cummings that the law excuses the officer’s conduct from prosecution because of his “honest but mistaken” belief that he was deploying his Taser at the time of the incident and not his gun.
The officer shot Riling on Mar. 3 in a holding cell. The inmate survived the incident but had to be held in a hospital for days in critical condition.
The office said that he had entered the cell and began removing his clothing as instructed at the time of the incident when a “drug baggie” fell from his waistband.
He had allegedly stepped on the bag and shortly after a struggle ensued between him and the officer, the office said.
“With his service firearm in his hand, the second officer yells ‘Taser!’ before shooting Riling in the torso,” the office stated.
“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,” the office continued.
“This violation of policy, however, does not constitute a violation of law,” the office said.
Given the totality of circumstances, Weintraub concluded that the officer “would have been justified in using his Taser to regain control of Riling inside the holding cell,” as the officer “had a reasonable belief the scuffle posed a danger to his fellow officer.”
The office said it will not release the name of the officer who shot the inmate because he “is not being charged.”