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Pennsylvania Police Officer Shoots Unarmed Man in Holding Cell, is “Excused” by DA

by Scott Grammer

On March 3, 2019, Brian Riling, 38, was in custody after being arrested on intimidation charges. His girlfriend told police that he had sent her a number of text messages threatening to attack her, calling her a prostitute and saying he would kill himself. Court records showed that Riling wanted his girlfriend to recant her report that he had broken into her home to ask why she was not returning his messages. She told police he had grabbed her by the throat and spit in her face after she left work on March 3. 

While in custody, Riling was placed in a holding cell by two police officers and asked to remove his belt. When he did so, a small object “consistent with a drug baggie” fell to the floor and Riling attempted to conceal it by stepping on it, which prompted a struggle. One unnamed officer yelled “Taser,” then shot Riling in the stomach while he was being held by the other officer. But he used his handgun, not a Taser. Riling asked, “Was that a gun? What are you doing? Did you shoot me with a gun?”

Riling lay on the floor after being shot, telling officers, “it hurts everywhere.” Eight minutes passed before he was removed from the cell. He was taken to St. Mary Medical Center, where he was in critical condition for several days and then later released.

Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said the unnamed police officer was not charged because the shooting was accidental. He explained the act was “neither criminal nor justified, but was excused. [The officer] did not possess the criminal mental state required to be guilty of a crime under state law.” That was despite the fact that the officer had carried the Taser directly in front of his gun, both on his dominant side, in violation of departmental policy. “This violation of policy, however, does not constitute a violation of law,” Weintraub stated. 

The 65-year-old officer who shot Riling was initially placed on paid administrative leave before retiring on April 10, 2019. 



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