Commonwealth’s Attorney clears RPD in complaints related to civil unrest

Commonwealth’s Attorney clears RPD in complaints related to civil unrest
Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has completed its review of five complaints involving the city’s police department related to the civil unrest. (Source: Hannah Eason - The Commonwealth Times)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has completed its review of five complaints involving the city’s police department related to the civil unrest.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office does not employ investigators, so Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette Wallace McEachin and a team of experienced attorneys reviewed police body-worn camera video, social media video, interviewed witnesses and other evidence to determine the validity of allegations made.

McEachin said her office investigated the following:

  • Whether a tattoo on the arm of a Richmond police officer is the emblem of a white supremacist group;
  • Whether a Richmond police officer deliberately drove his vehicle through a crowd and struck protesters on North Allen Street on June 13, 2020;
  • Whether a Richmond police officer painted himself/herself in “blackface”;
  • Whether a specific officer deployed OC spray on a specific peaceful protesters on June 1, 2020; and
  • Whether a Richmond police officer spat on a detained protester on June 1, 2020.

McEachin said this is not a complete list of all the allegations her office is investigating and more findings will be announced when investigations are completed.

The Tattoo

It was alleged that a police officer had the emblem of an unknown white nationalist or white supremacist organization on his arm. The Commonwealth’s Attorney said the tattoo is actually the logo of Northern Red, a company that gave firearms training to the officer.

Patrol Car on Curb

Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office also investigated the claim that the driver of a patrol car drove through a crowd deliberately and hit multiple people near the intersection of North Allen Street and Monument Avenue.

“That allegation is not factually accurate and the details of my conclusion that no criminal offense was committed are attached in a separate report.”

You can review that report, HERE.

Photograph

A picture was posted on social media claiming that an officer was wearing “blackface.” When the officer was questioned, the officer said the photo was taken years ago - before their employment with the department - when they were on a collegiate rugby team and were attending an official event where the “costume theme was beachwear.” Officer said they and a former friend went as sunburned rugby players and painted their skin red.

The officer said, “the post was unusually dark and the image appeared that my skin was painted brown.”

The original photo was provided to RPD’s Internal Affairs Division and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.

“A comparison of the social media photograph with the original photograph clearly demonstrates that the social media picture had been altered to appear as though the officer was in “blackface.” No criminal act was committed by the officer” the report said.

Use of OC Spray

An allegation was made that an officer deployed his OC canister on a protester after he left the Robert E. Lee monument and headed towards North Allen Street. McEachin said the investigation shows the officer directed the spray in the direction of a person throwing objects at police. Body-camera video shows the person making a throwing motion, bending towards the ground where a pile of debris and water bottles were, rising up and making a second throwing motion.

“During the second throw, one frame of the footage captures what appears to be a water bottle in his throwing hand while another shows the object flying through the air at police as the officer deploys his OC canister to prevent any further violence,” the report said.

McEachin said the video footage presents no evidence of criminal conduct by the officer in this specific incident.

Allegations of Spitting on a Detainee

After protests at the Lee monument on June 1, allegations surfaced on social media that one or more officers had spat on a detainee seated nearby.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office said that after reviewing body-worn camera video, the officers were spitting on the street in an effort to clear their throats after they were exposed to chemical agents and that no officer spit in the direction of a detainee.

“Moreover, the protester had no discernible reaction to the spitting that can be seen and heard on the BWC, which supports the conclusion that nothing touched the individual. If the detainee had been spit upon, there would have been an instinctive and visible reaction,” the report said.

To read the full report, click here.

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