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Alexandria Police say officers fatally shot Taft Sellers in self defense

6:03 PM, Sep 26, 2013   |    comments
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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WUSA) -- An internal investigation at the Alexandria Police Department has concluded that officers did nothing wrong when they killed a man this past February. 

It happened two blocks from police headquarters when 10 officers answered a call for a domestic dispute. But the man's mother was there and does not think police were justified in using lethal force.

"When they started shooting, I was there and I know what I saw," said Vickie Sellers who watched as seven Alexandria police officers opened fired and killed her son, 30-year-old Taft Sellers.

The former marine legally carried a gun.

Alexandria police had come across him before and never encountered any problems, said Chief Earl Cook.

On February 18th, 2013, Sellers had gone to discuss a dispute with his sister at their grandmother's house. She called police and told them that her brother had a gun, but did not threaten her with it.

Officers arrived within minutes and took cover. Cook says for at least eight minutes, his officers tried to get Sellers to put his gun down and show his hands.

"Only at the point when Mr. Sellers pointed his gun at one of the officers, did the rest of the officers fire their weapons," said Chief Cook.

Seven officers fired 37 rounds, hitting him five times. 

Vickie Sellers questions why officers kept shooting after Taft was down, but most importantly questions why they opened fired in the first place. Today, police chief Earl Cook said their own internal investigation found officers fired in self defense.

Cook says cell phone videos recorded by people across Duke Street at a McDonalds show Sellers pointed his gun at the officers. But Vickie Sellers, who was there and has seen one of the videos, says she only saw Taft point his gun down. She had just arrived and was screaming.

She believes the shooting started when one officer began firing because she thought Taft fired first. Which he did not.

The police department says it doesn't matter if an officer fired because he or she thought Taft fired since the evidence shows Taft pointed his gun at them.

Commonwealth's Attorney Randy Sengel found no criminal wrongdoing by police.  Sengel did confirm that an officer fired because she thought Sellers fired, but he said it is impossible to know which officer fired the first shot.  Like the police found,  Sengel said Sellers could be seen on a video pointing his gun at police. 

Chief Cook says he will not release the video to the public because its part of their internal investigation and also out of respect for Sellers family because of the graphic and sensitive nature.

But, Chief Cook did say he would consider WUSA9's request to let reporters, as objective viewers, see the video to verify whether Sellers pointed a gun or not.

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