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Virginia GOP leaders, police chiefs call for Northam to stop release of man who killed Richmond officer

Posted at 10:10 PM, May 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-10 23:36:07-04

RICHMOND , Va. -- Prominent members of the Republican Party of Virginia along with the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police are urging Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, to halt the release of a man convicted of killing a Richmond police officer more than 40 years ago.

Vincent Lamont Martin, a 64-year-old inmate at the Nottoway Correctional Center, is set to be released Monday, May 11, after the Virginia Parole Board voted to grant him parole earlier this year.

Martin has been serving a life sentence for the murder of Patrolman Michael Connors, who was shot multiple times near the campus of VCU on Nov. 13, 1979.

The shooting occurred after Connors pulled over a vehicle that was traveling the wrong way down a one-way street. Inside that car were Martin and a group of accomplices who had just minutes before robbed a 7-Eleven store near the intersection of Madison and Grace, in the city's Monroe Ward neighborhood.

Connors, unaware of the robbery, was shot in the neck after approaching the vehicle. Investigators say Martin then stood over the dying officer and fired several more shots into his head.

The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police (VACP) called for Northam to rescind Martin's pending the completion of the Inspector General's investigation.

"For the past month, we have been in contact with retired and active Richmond Police officers with great concern about the release of Vincent Martin, who was convicted for the 1979 felony murder of Officer Michael Connors," VACP officials wrote to Northam. "Last year when Martin was reviewed for parole, his release was not recommended by the Parole Board."

The group asked Northam to "make sure that a terrible miscarriage of justice does not occur."

Del. Robert B. “Rob” Bell (R-Albemarle), Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Rockingham), House GOP Leader C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) and Senate GOP Leader Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R-James City) also wrote to Northam urging the governor to stop the release.

The lawmakers cited irregularities in the parole board’s decision to release Martin as well as the circumstances of Officer Connors' murder.

“The urgency of our request cannot be overstated," the letter reads. "Absent an immediate intervention by you, Vincent Martin walks free tomorrow. We owe it to the victim’s family, to the Richmond Police Department, and to all Virginians to ensure that the process of granting parole is consistently legal, fair, and just.”

Inspector General investigating parole of man who killed officer

Virginia's official government watchdog is now investigating the decision to grant parole to a man convicted of killing a Richmond police officer, CBS 6 reported Friday.

The Office of the State Inspector General opened a probe this week into how the Virginia Parole Board has handled the case of Martin, according to a source.

When reached for comment, a spokesperson for the OSIG said they could neither confirm nor deny that there was an active investigation.

Martin was sentenced to life in prison for shooting and killing patrolman Connors in 1979.

The 23-year-old was shot multiple times at close range.

"It was a flat out execution," said retired prosecutor Stacy Garrett, who tried the case.

But as CBS 6 first reported, four out of five members of the parole board recently voted to set the 64-year-old Martin free.

Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Colette McEachin recently sent a letter to the board, asking them to reconsider their decision and rescind the release, saying that she was concerned about Martin's suitability for parole. McEachin also said she had questions about the process the parole board used to notify Connors' family.

Connors's sister has told CBS 6 that her family was not given the opportunity to present information to the board before Martin was granted parole, which she believed was required by law.

Brian Moran, Virginia's Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, has told CBS 6 that he would review McEachin's letter.

Last month, after Gov. Ralph Northam also told CBS 6 that he would take a look at the case, Martin's release date was delayed. CBS 6 has since learned that state officials are reviewing other recent decisions made by the parole board.