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Officers using tear gas at Lee Monument protest won't be charged, commonwealth’s attorney says

CA: Officers will not face charges for teargassing protestors at Lee Monument
Posted at 11:26 PM, Jul 29, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Richmond community finally has answers to whether police committed a crime after they tear-gassed a peaceful crowd at the Lee Monument two years ago.

Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin said she will not be pursuing criminal charges, in the four-page explanation she sent Friday night. She said there are no signs of intent and per the law that’d have to be there to bring charges.

The moment in question is the night of June 1, 2020, in Richmond.

McEachin was tasked to determine if Richmond Police broke the law by deploying teargas at the peaceful protestors at the Lee Monument.

According to a new explanation, police will not face criminal charges for their actions.

The commonwealth’s attorney found there was no intent in deploying the tear gas.

They concluded the incident happened because of miscommunication, confusion, and lack of command.

McEachin says that’s because of what was going on simultaneously at two different statues on Monument avenue.

Hundreds of protesters gathered at the J.E.B. Stuart Monument on June 1. Two men climbed on top of it and were sawing at the legs of the statue's horse.

Just one-tenth of a mile down Monument Avenue, even more people gathered around Lee Monument.

Officials said protesters were peaceful listening to speakers. They said no one was trying to dismantle the monument when tear gas was deployed.

From the findings, officials said RPD Command believed they were granting permission to use tear gas at the Stuart monument, but, reports indicate the sergeant was requesting to use tear gas at the Lee Monument.

Officials said there were multiple officers talking on different radio channels during this time.

They said that the speakers did not identify themselves, it was often unclear who was speaking, and at which monument.

“This lack of clarity contributed to the overall confusion and chaos, according to the commonwealth attorney,” they stated.

The report also indicates there were four main reasons why tear gas was deployed at the Lee Monument:

  • The threat of potential injury to the public if protestors knocked the Stuart Monument down
  • Lee statue being the first large crowd of protestors police responded to
  • The inability to see what was happening on the other side of the statue
  • Confusion in communication

In conclusion, McEachin wrote that it is deeply unfortunate that, given the multiple levels of miscommunication and confusion detailed above, no one in command was able to observe the entire circumference of the Lee Statue and realize that no one was on top of that statue or trying to pull it down

She went on to say that unclear communication led to the unnecessary use of tear gas.

The report said former Richmond Police Chief William Smith made the decision for it to be deployed and was held accountable by being removed from office days later.

Additionally, McEachin says no criminal liability will be had for officers who followed the chief’s orders.

CBS 6 reached out to Richmond Police to ask if the departmemt will be conducting an internal investigation. We had not heard back as of 11 p.m. Friday.

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