Two Park Police officers were charged Friday with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Gerald Cline Jr., a homeless man who died after being shot by Officer A.K. Collins in a Virginia park in September, the Tazewell County prosecutor said.
According to attorney Stephen D. Neubauer, Collins and Officer Brandon D. Reynolds “acted recklessly and in a grossly negligent manner” when they shot Cline, who died in Druid Park.
The two officers were responding to a 911 call about a drunken man with a knife in the park on Sept. 11. After officers tried to tell Cline to drop the knife, Collins shot him once in the back of the head. The altercation was recorded on two officers’ body cameras.
Mr. Neubauer said he was pleased by the charge and his office’s attempt to shed light on the case.
“Our entire office, beginning with the prosecutors and ultimately in the courtroom and in court proceedings, will be using the facts of this case to ensure a fair and impartial investigation,” he said.
Still, Mr. Neubauer acknowledged that some witnesses would not be able to tell the public exactly what happened.
“Of course, we’re still waiting for the [police] forensic medical reports from the State Police,” he said. “That has to be done. Of course, there is a continuing review by the district attorney’s office for things we may not have seen and the various witnesses that may be on the scene.”
“All of these factors make it all the more important that the public maintain confidence in our process,” he added.
On Friday, Officer Reynolds turned himself in, while Officer Collins remained at large. The decision came after a two-month investigation. The Park Police officers were placed on paid administrative leave immediately after the shooting.
During an interview with The Washington Post, Mr. Collins said he had been disoriented and was mistakenly opening fire on Cline.
“I just saw [Cline] holding a knife in his hand and I knew I had to do something,” Mr. Collins told the Post. “And I just opened fire. And I shot him.”
Attorney Beth Wilcox, who represents Officer Collins, said in a statement that her client and the other officer “acted reasonably and within their training when they responded to a report of a man with a knife.”
In a statement, a Park Police spokesperson expressed “deep sadness” for Cline’s death.