A police officer in Bucks County has been "excused" for shooting a man inside a holding cell in a police station in early March and will not face criminal charges, the district attorney said in a letter Friday.
Brian Riling, a suspect in a simple assault and intimidation case, was taking off his belt when a confrontation between him and two officers occurred inside the New Hope Borough station.
During the tussle, one of the officers shot Riling in the stomach in what Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintrab called an "honest but mistaken belief" that he was going to use a Taser instead of a handgun.
“After careful consideration, I have determined that [the officer’s] shooting of arrestee Brian Riling on March 3, 2019, was neither justified, nor criminal, but was excused,” Weintraub wrote in a letter to New Hope Police Chief Michael Cummings.
The officer will not be identified, Weintrab said in a statement released online.
After the shooting, Riling tossed and turned in agony on the ground of the cell for a few minutes before medical assistance was rendered, according to a 12-minute, 25-second video released showing the encounter.
The assault suspect and subsequent victim of the shooting was in critical condition at a nearby hospital for several days before he was released.
"Why'd you shoot me?" Riling could be heard asking while he lay unattended on the floor, according to the video released by Weintrab's office.
An attorney for Riling did not return a message left Friday evening.
The officer was wearing his Taser on his right side, in front of his firearm, and in violation of police department policy, according to Weintrab's statement.
"Policy dictates officers should wear their Tasers on their non-dominant side, in what is known as a cross-draw position," the statement read. "This violation of policy, however, does not constitute a violation of law."
Riling and the two officers began a physical confrontation inside the cell after what appears to be a small white baggie fell from the suspect as he took off his belt.
As Riling appeared to try recovering the baggie, the officers pushed him against the wall, but struggled to control him.
"A struggle ensues, during which Riling throws the item he was stepping on into the cell’s toilet," the statement from the DA's office said. "The officer who later shot Riling then enters the cell to assist his fellow officer, who is wrestling with Riling on a bench inside the cell. With his service firearm in his hand, the second officer yells 'Taser!' before shooting Riling in the torso."
As part of the investigation and conclusion, Weintrab's office said investigators "considered the officer's decades of exemplary service to the citizens of New Hope as evidenced by dozens of commendations and letters, as compared to relatively few minor historical infractions on his service record."