Richmond councilor wants independent investigation into mass shooting plot; has no confidence in police chief

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Posted at 6:47 PM, Sep 07, 2022

RICHMOND, Va -- More Richmond City Council members shared their thoughts about a private briefing with Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith that aimed to discuss public safety procedures following fallout from what Smith labeled as communication errors surrounding his claims that officers stopped a mass shooting.

"I didn't get anything out of the meeting. I didn't," said 8th District Councilor Reva Trammell.

Minutes before the closed-door meeting, Trammell spoke out in Council Chambers that she believed the discussion should take place in open session. However, Council President Dr. Cynthia Newbille said legal counsel advised the conversation, specific to standard operating procedures in the city, must take place in closed session.

“What the hell did we need to have one in closed session? The public needs to know. They’re the ones asking the questions. They’re the ones calling me up at night asking what hell is going on," Trammell said.

As Newbille stated publicly ahead of the meeting, and Trammell confirmed Wednesday, no specific details about the investigation or Dogwood Dell were mentioned.

Reva Trammell
Reva Trammell

Since much of the controversy has centered around the Chief naming Dogwood Dell, where thousands were gathered, as a target of a planned mass tragedy despite no evidence pointing to a specific location, Trammell was disappointed it wasn't a focal point of the conversation.

Now, she wants to see the investigative reports and the tip that alerted police of an alleged mass shooting plot.

“I want to see exactly what’s in that case file from the detective that was assigned to that case," Trammell said. "I know the Chief has said this and that, but what's in the report?"

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She said if she's not presented with any evidence, she would push for an independent investigation into the case and how it was handled "to get to the bottom of it."

Trammell also questioned what the city administration would do to hold the Chief accountable, as Council has no authority over his position.

“We can't fire him. All we can do is maybe a paper, a resolution of ‘no confidence' in the police chief," Trammell said.

"Do you have confidence," reporter Tyler Layne asked.

"No. Not now. No. No. I don’t. It's horrible for me to say that," Trammell responded.

Stephanie Lynch
Stephanie Lynch

Meanwhile, 5th District Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch, who represents the Dogwood Dell area, said she'd need more time and review before weighing in on her confidence in the Chief.

“Personally, I would love to poll and do a full assessment with our police department, because he is supporting all our officers in each of our precincts who are doing the hardest work every day responding to crises" Lynch said.

Tuesday evening ended emotionally for Lynch who tearfully walked out of the meeting early after protocols for mass threats were discussed.

"It’s uncomfortable for me to be in this place," Lynch said. "There's a lot of emotion wrapped up into this incident. For community members where Dogwood Dell is in their backyard and for many of those who attended the event, just the thought of something like that happening and all our safety being in jeopardy is a terrifying one. And then the thought that maybe that wasn't an accurate statement causes you to have a whole series of questions."

Lynch said she still believed there were more questions to be answered and that the closed session was just the "start."

"We only discussed safety protocols, and we did not discuss the details of Dogwood Dell, and I think those conversations are forthcoming," she said. "This is not over yet."

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The councilor said she supported the work of precinct officers in their investigation into the mass shooting tip and added the issues only came afterwards from leadership. She said the public deserves to know "the truth" and "intentions."

“It’s important that we have a functioning police department and that we have trust in our leadership," Lynch said.

Trammell agreed with those sentiments and said she'd continue being vocal about the incident in the press.

“I’m quite sure they would want all of us to stay away from you all [the press], and they would want you all to go away. But it was OK for them to be on CNN News, MSNBC," Trammell said referring to interviews Smith and Mayor Levar Stoney did with national TV outlets following the initial press conference.

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CBS 6 also heard from Councilman Mike Jones Tuesday night immediately following the meeting.

While Jones said it was much needed and productive, he felt communication errors were being effectively addressed. He said other issues impacting the city deserve equal attention as the mass shooting plot, including consistent gun violence on the Southside.

"There are other realities that we have to deal with. We have to buckle down. We have to do these things. We have to juggle them. But again, we need to make sure that we say what we mean, and we mean what we say. I'm talking about as it relates to individuals that work for the city, whether it's police, whether it's DPU, DPW, we need to communicate effectively across the board," Jones said.

CBS 6 reached out to Richmond Police and a spokesperson for Chief Administrative Officer Lincoln Saunders for a comment on Tuesday's meeting and did not receive a response as of Wednesday evening.

Depend on CBS 6 News and for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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