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Police: Officers in SUV were 'trapped by protesters' before attack near Lee statue in Richmond

Suspects who attacked officer, threw objects at SUV could face criminal charges
Posted at 8:56 PM, Jun 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-15 00:40:31-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Police are asking for the public's help to find the people they say attacked a Richmond police officer and a police vehicle Saturday night during a demonstration near the state-owned statue to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue.

Police said several officers in a marked RPD SUV were trapped by protesters in the 400 block of N. Allen Avenue around 9:30 p.m.

Officials released photos showing the back of the SUV's rear windshield with a gaping hole and a large dent on the car's rear panel.

Additionally, police released two videos from social media that show two different vantage points of the incident.

One is shot at ground level with the person recording capturing the right side of the police vehicle. The other is apparently taken from a building looking down on the scene, which sheds more light on what was happening to the left and front of the cruiser.

Police said those videos show protesters on foot and with bikes blocking the intersection at Monument and N. Allen avenues.

"Objects were thrown at the vehicle, so officers stayed inside due to safety concerns," a police department spokesperson said. "The officer driving the police SUV attempted to back up and leave the area. That officer was reportedly assaulted through an open window and protesters continued to throw objects at the vehicle, causing damage."

That is when police said the officer drove the SUV over the curb in an attempt to leave the area and avoid the protesters.

"They're throwing [expletive]," a man can be heard saying in the video.

However, police said more protesters swarmed and then surrounded the vehicle.

"Several members of the group continued to move in front of the police SUV, blocking the officers from driving forward," police said.

"Whoa... Get out of the way, get out of the way!" a man yells in the video.

"A protester held onto the side of the police vehicle as it attempted to leave," officials said.

Police said that person then fell backwards over a bike as the officers tried to flee.

When the officers finally drove off, officials said protesters continued to throw objects at the SUV.

Police department officials said late Sunday that they have received no reports of "civilian injuries" from the incident.

"The suspects who threw objects at the police SUV and reportedly assaulted the officer could face criminal charges," police said.

Sources said the officer was punched.

Anyone with information about the incident was asked to call the police department at 804-646-6186.

There were calls for accountability from police during a demonstration in Monroe Park at 8 p.m. Sunday.

"Last night I was struck by a police vehicle. And if I had fallen a few inches further than I did... I might not be here," a man told the crowd.

That group of demonstrators had made their way to the front of Richmond Police Headquarters as of 11:30 p.m. d Sunday.

Some people climbed a billboard across from the police station and tagged it with a message for the chief of police.

"So now we've got people on the billboards," reporter Laura French said. "I can't make out what they are saying, but we came here because there was a lot of tension."

French said there was a line of police officers in front of the building.

A police helicopter could he heard circling overhead.

Mayor calls for 'full investigation'

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is calling for a "full investigation" after the incident involving a police officer and demonstrators.

"I have spoken with the Commonwealth’s Attorney and have requested she investigate and expedite this review, along with several other cases from the past two weeks," Stoney said.

Additionally, the mayor said the officer involved has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the commonwealth’s attorney's investigation.

Councilman Mike Jones (9th District) called the incident unacceptable in a tweet late Sunday.

"I hate to state the obvious - you can’t drive a vehicle into a crowd of citizens," Jones wrote. "It is not acceptable and we are all awaiting for the report. This can not be tolerated."

Saturday night's protests, which followed the peaceful 5,000 Man March and RVA Youth Rally earlier in the day, marked more than two weeks of unrest, both in Richmond and nationwide, in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis.

Commonwealth's attorney will review 'criminal behavior' allegations

Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Colette McEachin previously said she will review all allegations of criminal behavior that occurred during demonstrations since they broke out more than two weeks ago.

McEachin said that includes accusations made against law enforcement.

"Our office will review all allegations of criminal behavior, including those brought against law enforcement; and if there are facts to prove a crime was committed, then we will bring the appropriate charges," McEachin said.

At least one person has filed a lawsuit against the four Richmond Police officers who deployed tear gas during last week's peaceful demonstration at the Lee monument.

Richmond Police Chief William Smith called it an "unwarranted action."

"Chief Smith just reviewed video of gas being deployed by RPD officers near the Lee Monument and apologizes for this unwarranted action," Richmond Police tweeted Monday night. "These officers have been pulled from the field. They will be disciplined because their actions were outside dept protocols and directions given."

Hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested for various violations.

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