FAIRFAX, Va. - A former Fairfax County police officer who fatally shot a Springfield man as he was standing unarmed in the doorway of his home has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
Adam Torres was supposed to go on trial Monday for the August 2013 killing of 46-year-old John Geer, but Torres agreed to a last-minute deal that could have him out of jail by June.
Geer's mother was very much against the plea agreement, telling Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh she wanted a conviction and a life sentence. But Morrogh said he agreed to the deal after weighing a number of factors, including knowing that Geer’s daughter did not want to testify and winning a conviction was no sure thing.
Torres stood in court on Monday and in a quiet voice read a statement saying, "I am truly sorry for my actions. I'm heartbroken for Mr. Geer's children. There are no words I can say today that can adequately express my remorse."
And with that, the short court hearing was over. There will be no trial unless the judge in the case rejects the sentence of one year in prison.
Torres was facing a murder charge when the last-minute deal came together Sunday afternoon.
"Given the tortured history of this case and how Maura [Geer’s longtime partner] and her family were sidelined for a couple of years waiting for this and how they were treated, I just couldn't bring myself really to again cross them and force their daughter to testify,” said Morrogh.
The prosecutor said in Virginia, the defense has the right to bring up the character of Geer and his prior behavior, which may have been difficult for the family and Geer’s daughter.
On Aug. 29, 2013, Geer was fighting with his longtime partner Maura Harrington, who had just told him she was moving out. When Geer threw a suitcase at her, she dialed 911.
After a tense standoff that lasted nearly 40 minutes, Torres fired one round into Geer's chest and told investigators later that Geer had suddenly dropped his hands from where he had them on the screen door. But other officers at the scene that day said it never happened.
"In a situation like that, tense, adrenaline is flowing, I don't know what a jury would decide,” said Morrogh. “I was comfortable trying the case.”
Geer's father, who was on the scene that day and witnessed his son being shot, said the plea deal has left him with mixed emotions.
"I feel it could have been a more severe sentence is what it amounts to,” said Don Geer. “We don't know what the sentencing will be. The judge is going to make a decision on that.”
If Judge Robert Smith rejects the deal, the case will be given to another judge and Torres will be given the opportunity to withdraw his plea.
The shooting of Geer remained a mystery for well over a year with police remaining silent on the true facts of the case. It took a U.S. Senator, a civil suit filed by the family and help from federal authorities to finally pry the facts from the police. The information was only made public following an order from a Fairfax County judge.
Jeff Stewart was Geer’s best friend and he also witnessed the shooting that day.
"He was a good guy and he was a good guy that day,” he said. “I know the grand jury, they asked about if he was volatile and John wasn't volatile. John was stubborn, but none of that was relevant. It came down to 40 minutes."