Questions about Joyner's death remain unanswered
Reprinted from Washington Examiner
U.S. Attorney Ron Machen is handing off the investigation of a fatal police shooting to federal prosecutors from Philadelphia, The Washington Examiner has learned.
U.S. Park Police officers shot 25-year-old Trey Joyner dead in an alley in the Trinidad neighborhood last summer. The shooting set off protests from Joyner's family and friends who all but accused the Park Police of murdering Joyner.
Alejandro Miyar, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, confirmed Tuesday that Machen's office has bowed out and that the U.S. attorney's office in Philadelphia has stepped in. A parallel review by the Justice Department's civil rights division "remains open and ongoing," Miyar said.
Machen is under tremendous pressure with the Joyner case. He inherited the shooting from his predecessor, then-acting U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips, whom Machen beat out for the top prosecutor's job.
The woman who urged Machen's appointment, D.C.'s non-voting Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, called for an independent investigation by the Department of Justice's civil rights division. She said that "the Park Police and other federal agencies have been instrumental in helping to reduce crime in the city but that the shooting raises legitimate questions for the local community and the District."
A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Philadelphia declined comment. Through a spokesman, Machen declined to be interviewed for this story. Neither Norton nor a U.S. Park Police spokesman responded to requests seeking comment.
On June 8, 2009, U.S. Park Police in plainclothes were patrolling the violent Trinidad neighborhood as part of the FBI-led "Operation Safe Streets." According to the agency, officers received a call about a man with a gun and found Joyner.
Park Police say there was a struggle and Joyner pointed a gun at the officers. Witnesses told various news outlets, though, that Joyner was unarmed and was shot in the back as he tried to run away from the cops.
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a civil rights lawyer who is fighting to force the Justice Department to disclose information about "Safe Streets" and the Joyner killing, said she's worried that Machen's gesture is all for show.
"We would be very concerned that the referral to Philadelphia will give it the image of distance or impartiality but still come back with a whitewashed investigation," she said. "It has been a year now. And people are entitled to answers."