The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in a shooting that killed 9-year-old Markiya Dickson and wounded an 11-year-old boy and an adult during a Memorial Day weekend celebration in a Richmond park.
David Archey, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Richmond office, announced the reward during a news conference Tuesday at city police headquarters.
“We know that neither the [Richmond police] chief nor the FBI can do their jobs without information from the public,” Archey said. “We can’t make solid cases that lead to good prosecutions without witnesses. Part of the FBI’s mission is to assist state or local law enforcement authorities, and as part of that, today we join the Richmond Police Department to say this case is important to us, and ask that witnesses continue to come forward.”
Chief William Smith said the department has received a “large outpouring of support and information” from residents of the neighborhood where the shooting occurred at Carter Jones Park on May 26, along with those who were in the park that day. But he said investigators still do not have enough to solve the case.
“There still remains those who have the most information, and they remain silent,” Smith said.
Richmond police Lt. Faith Flippo, who heads homicide investigations, said detectives are in great need of an eyewitness.
“We need an eyewitness to come forward and help us link all of the pieces that we have,” she implored. “No crimes can be solved without the help of an eyewitness. We need you to come forward; it’s the right thing to do.”
Flippo said the FBI reward provides “one more reason to come forward.”
She displayed a map on a video screen that highlighted the areas where the victims were struck by gunfire in relation to the park and surrounding neighborhood.
“We’re showing this to you all in hopes that it will trigger someone to come forward,” she said.
Flippo noted that police originally reported that two children, including Markiya, were shot at the park. Police said a third gunshot victim, a man who had been in the park enjoying the festivities, subsequently came forward. The man’s injuries were not considered life-threatening.
“What we know of the event is that there were two groups fighting,” Flippo said. “There was more than one gunman, and we do not believe that this act was random. However, our victims were innocently caught in the crossfire.”
Several days after the shooting, Richmond police said they had received information that three men were seen fleeing from the park with weapons during the event and released descriptions of the men. On Tuesday, the police said they now would prefer that the public not focus on those earlier descriptions.
Department spokesman James Mercante said in an email that the authorities “want eyewitnesses to come forward with what/who they saw without concern about their accounts and if they differ from earlier reports.”
Also this week, in a symbolic vote, the Richmond City Council on Monday approved Mayor Levar Stoney’s proposed ordinance to ban guns in public parks and city-owned buildings.
In announcing his proposal last month, Stoney had cited the fatal shooting of Markiya at Carter Jones Park and the mass shooting at a Virginia Beach government center that left 12 people dead and four wounded in May.
The ordinance approved Monday conflicts with current state law and won’t take effect unless the Virginia General Assembly allows localities to prohibit guns in municipal buildings at a special session set for July 9.
Anyone with information that may lead to the identification of the people responsible for the shooting at Carter Jones Park can call Richmond police or the FBI at (804) 261-1044 or go to tips.fbi.gov.
Chesterfield County-based Live Well Financial is officially operating under federal bankruptcy laws.
Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware on Monday granted a motion by three creditors of Live Well Financial to put the former mortgage lender and servicer into involuntary bankruptcy protection.
The judge also appointed an interim trustee to oversee Live Well’s operations. Live Well abruptly ceased operations in early May.
An involuntary bankruptcy petition differs from a voluntary bankruptcy case in that an involuntary petition is initiated by a creditor who believes the business can pay its debt but refuses to do so. A bankruptcy judge must determine the outcome.
The three creditors — Flagstar Bank, Mirae Asset Securities Inc. and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Financial Services LLC — filed an involuntary Chapter 7 petition on June 10 to force Live Well into bankruptcy. The three creditors claim that Live Well owes them a total of more than $130 million.
Live Well had until Monday to answer the involuntary petition, based on bankruptcy laws. But the company “has not answered or otherwise responded to the involuntary petition,” court documents show.
But Live Well had filed a preliminary objection on June 17, saying that the petition by the three creditors was riddled with false statements, misleading statements of fact and material omissions.
The bankruptcy judge had signed a status quo order on June 17 directing Live Well Financial officials not to destroy documents or take any actions that are outside of the ordinary course of business without court approval.
Live Well has said in bankruptcy court documents that it has been working expeditiously on the liquidation of its assets outside of the bankruptcy process. It also said it has been attempting to negotiate productive resolutions with all of its creditors.
But court documents filed Monday show that the Government National Mortgage Association, commonly known as Ginnie Mae, began the process on June 26 of terminating and extinguishing Live Well’s interests in various Ginnie Mae mortgage-backed securities pools, including the company’s origination and servicing rights.
“Ginnie Mae is entitled to terminate Live Well’s authority to act as a Ginnie Mae issuer and to complete the extinguishment of any redemption, equitable, legal or other right, title and interest of Live Well in the mortgage pools,” according to a letter Ginnie Mae sent to Live Well.
“In light of the foregoing developments, the alleged debtor [Live Well] has agreed to consent to the relief sought by way of the involuntary petition,” according to court documents, filed by the Delaware law firm Bayard, which is representing Live Well.
The judge appointed Delaware lawyer David W. Carickhoff as interim trustee. He works in the Wilmington, Del., office of the Archer law firm where his practice focuses on corporate bankruptcy and business reorganization matters.
In federal bankruptcy court documents, the three creditors claim that Live Well Financial is under investigation by the bank fraud division of the FBI and by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Live Well Financial was once a fast-growing mortgage and reverse mortgage lender and servicer that shut down abruptly on May 3 because of what it called “sudden and unexpected developments.”
It laid off all the employees working at its corporate headquarters in the Boulders office park in Chesterfield.
Michael C. Hild, the company’s CEO, founded the company in April 2005. It was ranked No. 7 among the top reverse mortgage lenders by volume last year.
In Nation & World | Lee Iacocca, who saved Chrysler from bankruptcy in 1980, dies at 94 | Page B1
A Metro & State
Wall Street A9
B Nation & World
TV / History D6
A new state law has forced former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling out of a job he helped create for himself at James Madison University.
It was not clear if the university expected Bolling’s employment as a senior fellow in residence for public service to end under the new law, or if university officials were caught off guard. But both Bolling and university President Jon Alger issued statements Tuesday saying the law means Bolling’s employment has ended.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, sailed through the General Assembly with little opposition. Gov. Ralph Northam signed the bill in March and it took effect on Monday.
The legislation stops universities from employing former gubernatorial appointees to their governing boards within two years of the end of the appointment. The law was prompted by JMU’s hiring of Bolling, who had just come off the university governing board. But during this year’s General Assembly session, no one explicitly said Bolling would be out of his $140,000-per-year job under the law.
The law says: “No baccalaureate public institution of higher education shall employ an individual appointed by the Governor to the board of visitors of such institution within two years of the expiration of his term.”
The Harrisonburg news site The Citizen first reported that Bolling had left JMU.
Reached by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Bolling declined to be interviewed, referring the newspaper to written statements from himself and Alger.
Bill Wyatt, a spokesman for JMU, declined to answer whether the university was caught off guard in realizing the new law would apply to Bolling.
Obenshain declined to comment.
JMU charged The Times-Dispatch $1,229.97 last year for public records related to Bolling’s hire, which went into effect Oct. 1. The records showed that Alger permitted Bolling to write part of his own job description for a newly created position that was not advertised, and that Bolling had asked for a contract of at least three years to boost his state pension.
Bolling negotiated for a “signing bonus” to cover the first year of his rent in a university-owned home. He had initially approached Alger to discuss a job while Bolling was still one of Alger’s bosses on the JMU board of visitors.
Bolling, a Republican, served as lieutenant governor from 2006 to 2014. He previously served as a state senator for a decade after four years on the Hanover County Board of Supervisors.
A number of Republicans in the legislature questioned the arrangement at JMU. Obenshain, who in the past was at odds politically with Bolling over Bolling’s refusal to support the statewide Republican ticket in 2013, made plans to file the bill after learning of it.
Bolling dropped his plan to seek the 2013 Republican nomination for governor after the GOP’s State Central Committee decided to pick the nominee in a convention rather than a primary. Bolling did not endorse candidates in that fall’s statewide campaigns, which means he did not back Ken Cuccinelli for governor, E.W. Jackson for lieutenant governor or Obenshain for attorney general. Cuccinelli narrowly lost to Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Democrat Mark Herring edged Obenshain in a contest that went to a recount.
Bolling asked Richard Cullen, a former Virginia attorney general, to examine whether Bolling had broken any state law. Cullen said last year that he found Bolling had not.
Alger’s statement said Bolling did outstanding work for the university, including giving dozens of guest lectures and presentations at state and national conferences, while taking the “high road” throughout his employment.
In his statement Tuesday, Bolling said he was “extremely disappointed” that he cannot remain employed at JMU.
“This is due to legislation that was passed by the General Assembly earlier this year. It is not what we wanted nor expected,” he said. “While I know that we accomplished a great deal over the past nine months, there is much more work to be done. My commitment to JMU and higher education remains unshaken. There is nothing more important than our efforts to restore a more civil society, and we will not be deterred in our commitment to that important work.”
He said he hopes to return to JMU in the fall to be a guest lecturer. He would undertake such duties as a volunteer, the statement said.
Virginia mental health officials expect state hospitals to run out of room over the Independence Day holiday weekend, forcing people in psychiatric crisis to wait in temporary custody until beds become available in public or private psychiatric facilities.
Dr. Hughes Melton, state commissioner of behavioral health and developmental services, issued a warning late Monday to local and regional mental health agencies, private psychiatric hospitals and law enforcement officials that “there will be times over the July 4th holiday weekend when there will not be any open staffed beds at any of the state hospitals.”
Melton said the state will work with those partners to delay the admission of people under temporary detention orders because they pose a threat to themselves or others and not allow them to leave without treatment, as patients sometimes did before Virginia passed a law in 2014 that made state hospitals provide the “bed of last resort.”
“We will ensure these individuals get placed somewhere, somehow,” he said in an interview Tuesday.
Holidays tend to intensify mental health crises, but they also create gaps in the state’s ability to move people through the system quickly.
Virginia’s eight adult mental hospitals operated at 98% to 100% capacity in May and June. The hospitals had about 17 psychiatric beds open on Tuesday, primarily in Northern Virginia, but mental health officials expect roughly 80 admissions over the four-day holiday weekend and delays in holding civil commitment hearings in most of the state.
The state’s two hospitals for elderly patients — Piedmont Geriatric Hospital in Nottoway County and Catawba Hospital near Roanoke — had more patients than beds on Tuesday. Southern Virginia Mental Health Institute in Danville was full. Eastern State Hospital near Williamsburg, the state’s largest mental hospital, had one open bed.
State hospitals admit an average of 20 patients a day, almost all of them under temporary detention orders that last 72 hours. Beyond that time, patients would have to be civilly committed, but only two hospitals, Catawba and the Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute in Falls Church, have judges available on Friday.
The state is working on ways to discharge current patients who are well enough to leave, divert them to other institutions and find alternatives for their care, including two private hospitals in Petersburg and Virginia Beach that have hired more staff members to handle the expected surge in patient admissions.
Even so, Melton said the state “anticipates that, with the upcoming holiday weekend that will result in a longer period of detention prior to a commitment hearing, all staffed beds at the state hospitals will become occupied.”
Ashland Police Chief Doug Goodman said he appreciates the commissioner’s alert, but added, “That’s a pretty scary thing.”
“What are we supposed to do?” Goodman asked. “As law enforcement, we are now caught between a rock and a hard place. And, more importantly, the person in crisis is caught between a rock and a hard place.”
Full state mental hospitals put severe pressure on law enforcement agencies, which must commit officers to holding people against their will and often transporting them across the state for treatment.
“This issue is imploding,” said Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. “Law enforcement cannot hold these folks if there isn’t a mental health bed available. Hopefully, they won’t end up in jails.”
State hospitals have come under increasing pressure since passage of the “bed of last resort” law in 2014 to end the process of “streeting,” in which people in crisis were allowed to leave without treatment because no psychiatric facility beds were available within the time allowed by state law for holding people involuntarily in emergency custody.
The state senator whose family tragedy triggered passage of the law said the problem isn’t the “bed of last resort” requirement, but the unwillingness of private hospitals to accept more people under temporary detention orders who are especially sick or aggressive.
“The bed of last resort made sure people weren’t going to be streeted anymore,” said Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, whose son stabbed the senator and killed himself in late 2013 just 13 hours after being released from emergency custody because no bed was found in time.
“The problem is that private hospitals have used the bed of last resort as a way to avoid the tough cases,” said Deeds, chairman of the Joint Subcommittee to Study Mental Health Services in the 21st Century.
House Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, who pushed for the subcommittee’s creation in 2014, called the situation “a challenge” for Virginia’s public mental hospitals.
“It appears the state has become the bed of first choice,” Jones said Tuesday.
Private hospitals, represented by the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, say they are treating most of the people under temporary detention orders and all of those who commit themselves voluntarily for treatment.
Hospital association spokesman Julian Walker said private hospitals have state approval to add 159 beds across Virginia, with 30 more in the pipeline. And they’re subject to similar pressures as state hospitals.
“If there is a peak need for services, they may be experienced by public hospitals and private hospitals,” Walker said.
Melton credited two private psychiatric facilities — Poplar Springs Hospital in Petersburg and Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center — for assigning extra staff to work closely with the state over the holiday weekend to ensure everyone who needs treatment gets it.
However, he said private hospitals are often not willing to accept patients who are intoxicated, aggressive, elderly or medically frail, even when the state is willing to pay them for the beds.
While state hospitals are operating near capacity, private psychiatric facilities are generally 75% full, Melton said. “It needs to be recognized the capacity is there — it just doesn’t exist in the public state hospital system.”
The commissioner last sounded the alarm before the Memorial Day holiday weekend, when a dozen people in psychiatric crisis were forced to wait in involuntary custody for beds.
“There were individuals who waited more than a day before the state had beds for them,” said Daniel Herr, deputy commissioner for facility services.
Under its crisis response plan, the state will ask magistrates to issue 72-hour temporary detention orders, which can be extended over the holiday weekend.
However, the state will ask local emergency mental health workers to delay admission until an appropriate bed becomes available, Herr said. Law enforcement would maintain involuntary custody during the TDO.
Law enforcement agencies say the state approach is a big burden on them.
“It is a huge problem statewide,” said Gary Roche, police chief for the town of Pulaski. “And it is not just on holidays — it’s a concern of ours all the time.”