A jury believed he violated her constitutional rights in the 90s. So how did he become a police chief?

Posted at 7:59 AM, Apr 11, 2023

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. — Valerie Vaughn vividly remembers a time 28 years ago when she received the scare of a lifetime.

"I was stunned. Very fearful and stunned," Vaughn said.

Vaughn was working as a loss prevention detective for Walmart at the time, when on March 5, 1995, $123,000 disappeared from a safe inside the Colonial Heights store.

Colonial Heights police were called to the scene, and Patrol Sergeant Jeff Faries showed up to investigate.

Vaughn said, at some point, Faries told her to leave Walmart and come down to the police station with him, where she said he arrested her, accusing her of the crime.

"I remember being handcuffed," Vaughn said. "I was crying. I was terrified."

CBS 6 obtained court records from a civil lawsuit Vaughn filed and won after the incident.

Under oath, Vaughn said she was one of several Walmart employees questioned by Faries, but the only one taken to the police station.

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Valerie Vaughn

In her testimony, she claimed Faries told her "you can make it easier or you can make it harder on yourself," before forcing her to leave Walmart.

"He grabbed my right arm and put me in the car around three o'clock," Vaughn said in her testimony.

Once in his office, Vaughn said Faries told her "you stole the money and if you don't know, if you didn't steal the money, you knew who stole the money and you need to."

Vaughn said Faries then pulled out a Miranda Warning form, read it to her and had her sign it.

"He said you're under arrest for the grand larceny of Walmart and embezzlement," Vaughn said during her testimony. "He read me my rights...after I signed it then at that point he put the handcuffs on me...When he couldn't get me to confess then he said well I'm going to, I'm going to un-arrest you..he un-handcuffed me."

But Faries's recollection was different.

Under oath, he testified that "I said Valerie, there are a lot of nosey people around here...and I was like do you want to get out of here? Do you want to go over to my office and sit down and talk about this? And she said yeah."

Faries claimed Vaughn was happy to go to the station with him.

"She ended up saying hey, am I a suspect in this? I said Valerie, before we go any further, yes you are. I said Valerie, let me read you your rights," Faries testified. "I got a Miranda rights form, and I started filling it out. I read her her rights, and after I read her her rights she was upset."

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But, Faries said he never put handcuffs on Vaughn.

"No, sir. She was never handcuffed, sir," Faries said during his testimony. "If I had arrested her I would have taken her across the street and called in a magistrate, swore out a warrant in front of the magistrate, processed her and you know bond would have been set."

Testimony from both Faries and Vaughn reflected that Faries ultimately drove Vaughn back to Walmart.

She was fired a week later.

And yet, Vaughn was never actually charged with the crime.

She sued Faries for violating her constitutional rights, and a federal jury sided with her, awarding her more than $1 million.

A juror told the Richmond Times Dispatch in March of 1996, " we just thought Colonial Heights Police Department has done a sloppy job, and maybe this will be a wake up call."

That juror also told the RTD, "we began examining the evidence and it seemed to us that there were at least four good suspects that had access to the cash office and access to the safe. They weren't taken seriously as suspects, and weren't taken down to the police station. They weren't isolated from each other before the investigation. We couldn't even figure out why Valerie Vaughn was selected."

Vaughn reached out to CBS 6 after a recent series of problem solvers investigations concerning Jeff Faries, who until last year was the Colonial Heights Police Chief.

"I was fired, I was defamed," Vaughn said. "It blew my mind that how could he be the Chief of Police?"

Faries retiredlast April, after the Virginia State Police opened an investigation into inappropriate behavior complaints made against him.

Those complaints came from members of the girls' softball team at Colonial Heights High School, where Faries was the head coach until he resigned from that job in February of 2022.

A special prosecutor found there was evidence that Faries committed a misdemeanor or misdemeanors, but a delay in reporting the allegations meant the statute of limitations had already expired.

Since then, Faries has been decertified by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, meaning he can no longer serve as a law enforcement officer.

He has indicated to DCJS that he plans to appeal the decertification, but he has postponed his appeal hearing twice already.

Vaughn said she stands behind the girls on the softball team, and she does not believe Faries should be recertified.

"I want them to know that they're very brave, and they're very courageous, and they did nothing wrong at all," Vaughn said

Vaughn said she also stands by a former assistant softball coachwho spoke to CBS 6 alleging that complaints she made about Faries to the school system fell on deaf ears.

"I am so proud of her, and I think that she should be recognized for her bravery," Vaughn said.

After the jury announced its verdict in Vaughn's case, Faries and his attorney filed an appeal.

Vaughn's attorney, Jim Thorsen, told CBS 6 the judge was not inclined to set aside the verdict and ordered the parties to private mediation.

During mediation, the matter was settled by a payment of money to Vaughn, so the court dismissed the verdict with prejudice.

CBS 6 asked the former City Manager for Colonial Heights, Rick Anzolut, why Faries was hired as police chief after this incident.

In an email, Anzolut said he conducted a nationwide search for a new chief, and after an extensive screening process that included evaluation by a panel of Virginia Police Chiefs, Faries was the "best candidate" and was awarded the position.

Anzolut said Faries was an "exceptionally effective Chief of Police."

CBS 6 also reached out to Faries about the case.

In an email, he said the former police chief and city administrator found "no procedural violations related to the incident."

Faries also said that over the course of the next 25+ years, he was involved in a lot of good work and community involvement, which led to greater responsibilities and opportunities.

He pointed to his active involvement with the Virginia Special Olympics, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, Heroes and Helpers and domestic violence initiatives, among others.

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