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Hampton, Stafford prosecutors to independently review fatal Henrico Police shooting

Posted at 4:53 PM, Sep 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-24 08:19:31-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Henrico's Commonwealth's Attorney Shannon Taylor announced Monday that two other Commonwealth’s Attorneys will independently review the officer-involved shooting of Gay Plack.

Plack died after she was shot by Henrico Police during a welfare check at her Huntwick Court home in the Wellesely neighborhood last Tuesday.

Plack's doctor requested police check on his 57-year-old patient at her home.

The former nurse, preschool teacher, and talented artist had long battled bipolar disorder, according to her family.

Taylor said she would continue to review the case, but called on City of Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Anton Bell and Stafford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen to “ensure a complete, thorough and objective investigation.”

Gay Plack

Taylor said she would not recuse herself, but she would instead release independent findings, as well as her own.

“I do not want any doubt in anyone’s mind that this unfortunate tragic incident receives anything but a thorough, objective, and independent review,” she said in a statement Monday.

Taylor also called for Henrico Police to make the body-cam video available to the public, with the Plack’s family’s concurrence.

“This tragedy, and it is a tragedy, is yet another unfortunate reminder that we need additional resources to help those suffering with mental illness,” Taylor added.

She said she would like to see more mental health training and would like law enforcement officials to revisit welfare check policies and procedures.

“Let me conclude by offering my heartfelt sympathies to the family and friends of Ms. Plack and offer the assurance that I will investigate this incident thoroughly, fairly, and expeditiously,” said Taylor.

Shannon Taylor

ACLU of Virginia calls for recusal of Henrico's top prosecutor

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia (ACLU) called for Taylor to recuse herself following the fatal officer-involved shooting.

Bill Farrar, the Director of Strategic Communications at ACLU of Virginia, called for three changes regarding the investigation surrounding Plack's death.

"We call for the release of any video that may exist immediately so the public can see what happened and what actions were taken," Farrar explained. "We ask for the release of officers’ names 48 hours after the incident. We understand there can be safety concerns, but you’re the police. You know how to protect people and after 48 hours we need to know who did this."

Farrar also called on Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney Shannon Taylor to recuse herself from deciding whether or not the officers involved should be charged.

"I'm not standing here questioning the integrity of anyone -- that they’re covering something up or not doing a thorough job. But, the public really needs to be assured of that and we can’t be as long as the local prosecutor is the one who’s looking at it," Farrar stated.

Taylor went on the record after members of the media were allowed to view body camera footage of the shooting on Friday.

"From the prosecutor’s office, there is no concern regarding the actions that the officers took. That’s why we were very confident showing that footage to the press," Taylor explained.

However, Farrar cited the close working relationship between prosecutors and police.

"They work with these officers hand in hand. They know these officers and they have relationships from the top to the bottom," he said. "We need to be sure that those conclusions are being reached by somebody who isn’t being influenced by those relationships."

Police chief: Officer had to make most difficult decision of his career

In a video statement Thursday, Henrico Police Chief Humberto Cardounel said officers knocked on the door, but received no response. After finding a door that was unsecured, officers entered the home to see if anyone was in distress.

Cardounel said officers forced entry into a locked bedroom after announcing their presence and calling out Plack’s name.

He said the officers were then confronted with Plack "swinging" an ax in an aggressive way towards them.

“Although he (officer) made several attempts and pleaded for her to stop and for her to desist, she continued to come at him with the ax and the officer had to make the most difficult decision in his life and his career, which is to use deadly force,” Cardounel said Thursday.

An officer shot Plack in the abdomen. She was transported to a hospital where she later died.

Cardounel said the "extremely violent, extremely volatile situation" literally unfolded in about "four seconds.”