Lawyers say a Fairfax County police officer charged with assault after firing a stun gun at an unarmed African-American man believed his target was someone else.
News4 partner WTOP reports that both a prosecutor and a defense lawyer for Officer Tyler Timberlake agreed at a hearing Tuesday in Fairfax County General District Court that Timberlake thought he shot a person named Anthony, who had an extensive criminal record. But the victim was someone else entirely, who was in apparent distress before Timberlake shocked him.
Defense attorney Brandon Shapiro said the fact is relevant to Timberlake's defense because it shows his actions toward the individual were not irrational.
Body-worn camera footage released by Fairfax County Police shows Timberlake, who is white, arrived on scene Friday in the county's Gum Springs neighborhood, advanced on an African-American man and quickly fired his stun gun after other officers had spent several minutes trying to persuade him to get into an ambulance to go to a detox center.
Prosecutor Bob Frank disagreed about the relevance of the mistaken identity.
“A mistake on his part does not justify what he did,” Frank said.
Shapiro said Timberlake has no history of previous incidents and that the widely seen video is jeopardizing his client's right to a fair trial.
A judge granted a request from Shapiro that prosecutors turn over other video from before and after the shooting, including what Shapiro said were urgent requests for backup from officers prior to Timberlake's arrival on the scene.
The victim, who was acting in a disoriented manner in the middle of a residential street when he was shot, was treated at a hospital and released.
Timberlake, who is free pending trial, did not attend the hearing.