Dogwood Download: Things You Should Know For Tuesday, Feb. 2

By Arianna Coghill, Brian Carlton

February 2, 2021

Rocky Mount cops face new charges, council member runs for General Assembly.

RICHMOND- Monday could have been a week in itself. Charges were filed, some officials announced new campaigns and several bills were scrapped by the General Assembly. What else? Oh, some health districts are still waiting for the promised additional vaccine doses. Those still haven’t arrived yet. Here’s a look at the Dogwood Download for Tuesday.

Health Districts Are Still Waiting For Extra Doses

In his press conference last week, Gov. Ralph Northam promised a 16% increase in vaccine doses. That was supposed to start last Thursday. So far, they haven’t arrived for Richmond and Henrico County health districts.

“The governor did mention last week a 16% increase in supply. That has not affected our supply this week. We anticipate it could affect our supply next week but we have not received specifics on that yet,” said Amy Popovich, nurse manager for both districts.

Popovich said the incoming vaccine supply should go up by 17,000. Until that happens, vaccine appointments could take weeks or even a month.

“We still unfortunately do not have the supply to be able to distribute to partners outside of the safety net and few pharmacies,” Popovich said.

New Charges For Former Rocky Mount Cops

A federal grand jury handed down multiple indictments Monday for Thomas Robertson and Jacob Fracker. The former Rocky Mount police officers, who were fired last week for taking part in the attack on the U.S. Capitol building, already faced two misdemeanor charges. Those included entering and remaining in a restricted building, along with disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

Now they face two new charges. First, obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting. Second, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building. Both men were identified by FBI and Capitol Police from photos and posts on social media.

The FBI’s warrant for their arrest specifically includes references to social media posts where the officers admitted to entering and defacing the Capitol building. The day after the siege, Fracker sent a photo of himself inside the Capitol building to a friend. That day he also sent a friend a video in which he said “S*** was wild lol I pissed in Nancy P’s toilet.” 

The 47-year-old Robertson was a patrol sergeant with the department. Fracker, 29, worked with the K9 unit.

Both men will be back in court later today.

RELATED: Rocky Mount Officers Charged in Connection With Capitol Attack

Warner, Kaine Tell DeJoy to Reverse Course

It’s time to reverse policy changes that are slowing down the mail. Sen. Mark Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine put that in a joint letter to U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, saying he needed to make several changes.

First, they demanded he rescind all policies that are delaying mail delivery. Second, DeJoy needed to speed up mail-order medications. Third, they called for him to publish data on COVID-19 cases of postal workers by postal area

“We write to express deep concern regarding widespread mail delivery delays across Virginia in recent months,” Kaine and Warner wrote. “We have heard from hundreds of our constituents that recount unacceptable delays in the delivery of everything from Christmas and birthday cards to mail-order medications and credit card bills. Furthermore, we seek answers about operational decisions and other circumstances that have contributed to such delays and what is being done to prevent future failures.”

A recent report from the USPS Office of Inspector General found that Richmond’s Processing & Distribution Center had the fourth-highest late trip rates among P&DCs nationwide. The report also showed that post office officials underestimated incoming mail piece volume by 66% in their operations plans for Richmond.

One day later, the senators have not heard a response.

VDH System Upgrades Affect COVID Data

Meanwhile, as reports of new COVID-19 cases are slowly going down across Virginia, so are other data points. On Monday, the Virginia Department of Health reported 10 new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total to 6,474. That’s a big deal because the state typically averages 56 deaths per day.

Cases and hospitalizations are still going down…kind of. While cases are still increasing, they’re going up at a lesser rate than they used to. On Feb.1, Virginia saw 2,861 new reported cases, which is lower than the typical 4,146 average cases a day. It’s also way lower than the record number of 6,166, set back on Jan. 18. And hospitalizations are trending similarly, with 70 less than Jan 31. But, the number is still at 2,441 which is pretty high.

General Assembly Kills Qualified Immunity Bill

Over the fall, criminal justice reform was a huge topic of debate during the General Assembly session, including the subject of qualified immunity for law enforcement. Basically, qualified immunity protects police officers from being sued. Many police reform advocates say that getting rid of qualified immunity is the first step to holding officers accountable.

“This is about holding the employing agencies accountable in the most egregious cases. If we’re going to prevent the next George Floyd, we have to the employing agencies held liable in these situations,” said Mark Dix with Virginia Trial Lawyers Association.

Unfortunately, the Senate Judiciary Committee killed SB1440 on Monday, a bill that would’ve gotten rid of qualified immunity. But, there’s still hope. While senators did kill the bill with a 9-5 vote, they did express interest in revisiting the bill in a civil law subcommittee. However, lawmakers did not announce any concrete plans that say when this would happen.

Senators Will Debate Death Penalty Today

Is Virginia one step closer to getting rid of the death penalty? Looks like we won’t know until later today. On Monday, Virginia State Sen. Scott Surovell requested that the Senate skip over SB1165 just one more time to take care of a few issues.

“There’s a couple changes that the Attorney General’s office has asked for with a couple of pending cases which weren’t dealt with in the bill,” said Surovell. “There’s still some folks pondering what they’re going to do with this. So I’m going to ask one more time that it go by one more day. But, we will get it done and debate this bill.”

The death penalty is a hugely controversial subject matter, especially in Virginia, who executed more people than any other state. Many people who’re against the death penalty cite the fact that the state is far more likely to execute Black people than whites, especially when their victims are white. Also, new technological advances have revealed that many wrongfully convicted people on death row.

If the Senate passes this bill, it will ban the death penalty across the state, even for current cases. The Senate next meeting is today at noon and you can livestream the meeting on their website.

Richmond Councilman Running for General Assembly

Black History Month is kicking off with a bang, with Councilman Mike Jones announcing he campaign for a seat in the General Assembly. If he’s elected, Jones will be the first person of color to represent the 69th district, which is a minority-majority district.

“I’m running for the House of Delegates because representation matters,” Jones said during his virtual press conference. “All of us have felt marginalized, forgotten, left out at some point in time by our elected leaders. I’m running to fix that.” And while that’s something to celebrate, Jones pointed out that it’s actually sad that district hasn’t had a Black representative yet. Especially since the area is 68% people of color. He hopes that he can win this race and change that.

“In 2021, that’s embarrassing,” Jones said. “I’m running because the people deserve a representative who shares their experiences, who has felt their pain.” During his campaign, Jones plans to highlight education, healthcare, economic mobility, and justice reform. Besides being a councilperson, Jones is also a pastor for the Village of Faith Ministries.

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