The Bucks County District Attorney’s Office announced Friday that a Pennsylvania police officer will not face criminal charges after shooting an unarmed man inside a jail cell. The district attorney’s office also released a surveillance video of the shooting in which the officer appeared to mistakenly grab his gun instead of his Taser before firing the weapon.
On March 3, Brian Riling was arrested on intimidation charges after allegedly harassing his longtime girlfriend for not answering his text messages. Riling was charged with felony witness intimidation, retaliation against a witness or victim, stalking, and related offenses.
According to the video footage, Riling stood inside a jail cell at the New Hope police station when officers ordered him to remove his belt. As Riling began to take off his belt, a small baggie that appeared to contain drugs fell to the floor.
Immediately after Riling attempted to hide the item with his foot, one of the officers shoved Riling and began to scuffle with him as another officer yelled, “Taser!”
Instead of grabbing his Taser, the unidentified officer reached for his gun and shot Riling in the abdomen. According to the video, the officer’s Taser was holstered on the right side of his belt, next to his firearm.
Riling continued to writhe in pain on the floor for eight minutes before officers dragged him from the cell and finally administered medical attention. Riling repeatedly asked, “Why did you shoot me with a gun?”
Riling was transported to St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne and remained in critical condition for several days. He survived the shooting but continues to experience ongoing medical complications as a result of the incident.
On Friday, Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub announced that no criminal charges would be filed against the officer who shot Riling. Although the officer violated policy by wearing his Taser on the same side as his firearm, Weintraub determined that the error did not constitute a violation of law.
“Given the totality of circumstances, the officer would have been justified in using his Taser to regain control of Riling inside the holding cell, as the officer had a reasonable belief the scuffle posed a danger to his fellow officer,” Weintraub stated. Because the officer believed he was pointing his Taser at Riling, Weintraub said, “he did not possess the criminal mental state required to be guilty of a crime under state law.”
The unidentified officer was placed on paid leave until his retirement on Wednesday.