Richmond Police Officers Face Assault Charges After Protests

Police in Richmond, Va., respond to protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

By Brian Carlton

October 5, 2020

A grand jury hands down indictments against two of the eight officers accused

RICHMOND-Two Richmond police officers face assault and battery charges in connection with this summer’s protests. Richmond Commonwealth Attorney Colette McEachin released a statement Monday, saying her department handed 18 sealed indictments to a grand jury earlier in the day. Those 18 indictments involved “the actions of eight Richmond Police Department officers during the protests that occurred earlier this summer,” McEachin said. 

Out of those 18 indictments, 16 came back from the grand jury as “not a true bill.” That means the grand jury didn’t find enough evidence to charge the defendant. Six of the eight officers were not charged as a result. 

If a grand jury finds enough probable cause exists for a trial, they return the indictment as a “true bill.” That happened with the final two officers Monday. Officer Christopher Brown and Officer Mark Janowski both were charged with assault and battery in connection with their actions this summer. The indictments included no details about what actions led to the charges. Janowski has been with the department since 2014 and Brown since 2015. Both men will be on administrative leave until verdicts are reached in their respective cases.

The protests started in May after Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer, killed George Floyd, an unarmed Black man. The officer stuck his knee in Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Richmond was one of several cities across the country that saw protests, which we covered here. When the protests started in Richmond, Mayor Levar Stoney set a curfew beginning at 8 pm and running through 6 am. Specifically, the mayor ordered people not to occupy public space within city limits during that time period each night. Things turned violent, however, with police clashing with protesters. 

Second round of protest investigations

This marks the second round of investigations connected to this summer’s protests. In July, the Richmond Commonwealth Attorney’s Office reviewed five complaints against the Richmond Police Department. McEachin and her staff cleared the department in that inquiry, which you can read here. To do that, a staff of attorneys reviewed body camera footage, social media video and interviewed witnesses. The staff looked into claims including:

  • If an officer had a white supremacist logo tattooed on his arm;
  • Accusations that an officer spit on a detained protester
  • If an officer dressed in “blackface” while on duty during the protest
  • Whether a specific officer deployed OC spray on peaceful protesters
  • If an officer deliberately drove his vehicle through a crowd and hit protesters on North Allen Street on June 13

During this investigation, there was no reference to assault and battery charges. However, at the time, McEachin said investigations continued into other allegations. In July she said more findings would be announced when those investigations finished.

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