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Arlington police fire officer who fatally shot man following short pursuit

Police Chief Al Jones said Officer Robert Phillips violated department policies when he killed Jesse Fischer on Wednesday.

By Michael Williams

Arlington police Chief Al Jones
Arlington police Chief Al Jones spoke during a news conference Friday about the fatal shooting. / Credit: Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer

The Arlington Police Department fired an officer Friday who fatally shot a man earlier in the week, saying the officer could have taken steps to avoid opening fire.

Officer Robert Phillips, a seven-year veteran of the department, was fired two days after he shot Jesse Fischer following a brief pursuit.

Police responded to reports that Fischer was slumped over his steering wheel in the middle of Pioneer Parkway, near Daniel Drive, shortly before 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

One officer began speaking with Fischer but he drove away, authorities said. He stopped again near Daniel Drive and Arkansas Lane, but ignored the order to surrender from Phillips and the other officer.

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Authorities said Fischer drove away again, turning onto Carla Court, which ends in a cul-de-sac.

Video released by police Friday shows Phillips stopping his patrol car in the middle of the cul-de-sac while Fischer turns around.

Robert Phillips
Robert Phillips (Arlington Police Department)

Phillips got out of his car and fired six shots, striking Fischer several times. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Police Chief Al Jones said during a news conference Friday that Phillips violated department policy because he could have taken actions to avoid shooting Fischer.

“He could have backed up behind [his] vehicle and allowed the vehicle to go by,” Jones said. “He could have stayed in his vehicle so he didn’t put himself in a situation where he had to use deadly force. So there’s a number of options that he could have used.”

Phillips also could have blocked in Fischer because he knew the street ended in a dead-end, Jones said.

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Jones said Phillips violated two Arlington police policies. The first says officers should not fire toward moving cars “except when the suspect is using deadly force against the officer(s) or others, and the exigency to stop the threat outweighs the potential risks involved.”

The second prohibits officers from placing “themselves or any part of their body on, inside, or in the path of a vehicle where deadly force is the likely outcome, unless the exigency to stop the threat outweighs the potential risks involved.”

Jones said he showed the video of the shooting to Fischer’s father earlier Friday, following a meeting meeting with Phillips, his lawyer and his union representative when he told the officer he was fired.

The father was upset, Jones said, but the chief said he hopes he takes some solace in the fact that Phillips was fired.

The union representing Arlington officers called Jones’ decision “hasty.”

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“The department needs to allow the total investigation to be done and all the facts reviewed before taking such punitive action against the officer,” said Officer J.P. Mason, president of the Arlington Police Association.

Jones acknowledged the firing was speedy. “I don’t think we’ve ever fired anybody in two days,” he said. Jones said he gave the former officer due process by reviewing the facts of the case before deciding to fire him.

Police have not publicly identified the backup officer who was with Phillips at the time of the shooting and did not fire her weapon. She remains on administrative leave, a process that is expected to last about a week, Jones said.

Authorities are still investigating and it was not clear Friday whether police plan to file criminal charges.

Fischer is the second person fatally shot by Arlington police this year. In March, an officer fatally shot a rape suspect who pointed a gun at the officer.

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