The day after a Richmond police SUV drove through a crowd of protesters at the intersection of North Allen and Monument avenues, Mayor Levar Stoney said on Twitter that he has asked the commonwealth’s attorney to investigate the incident and the police department to place the officer involved on administrative leave.
In a tweet on Sunday, Stoney said he asked Colette McEachin, the city’s top prosecutor, to “expedite this review, along with several other cases from the past week.”
No one appeared to be seriously injured.
Police said in a statement late Sunday that an officer was allegedly assaulted. The release did not mention or respond to Stoney’s request to place the officer involved on leave.
“Suspects who threw objects at the police SUV and reportedly assaulted the officer could face criminal charges,” police said in the statement seeking the identities of those involved.
In their statement, police provided a timeline that differs from videos of the incident posted to social media and the accounts of two Richmond Times-Dispatch reporters who witnessed the following:
Around 9:30 p.m. Saturday, while live music was being played at the foot of the Robert E. Lee statue as part of ongoing protests in the city sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a Richmond police SUV slowly made its way north on Allen Avenue toward a line of bicyclists who were blocking cars from entering the traffic circle around the statue.
It is unclear why the police vehicle moved toward the event, which had been going on since 1 p.m. without incident.
The front windows of the SUV were down, and while the vehicle’s blue lights had been on initially, they were switched off before the confrontation in favor of a floodlight.
No siren sounded, and the two officers in the SUV could not be heard giving any orders or instruction.
After briefly stopping at the blockade of cyclists, the SUV tried to back up but was blocked by another vehicle. In a video posted to Twitter, a water bottle appears to strike the roof of the vehicle just before it moves forward to mount the curb, in an attempt to get around the crowd. But more demonstrators gathered to block its way.
The protesters stood against the front bumper as the vehicle lurched forward, causing some in the crowd to jump back and others to fall to the side.
As it returned to the road, people screamed as it collided with protesters. A second video posted on Twitter that was shot from a higher vantage point shows a crowd swarm the driver’s side of the police vehicle.
The crowd parted, allowing the SUV to head east on Monument Avenue. No one appeared injured in the immediate aftermath.
The crowd then converged on two other police SUVs that tried to follow the first but were forced back down Allen Avenue. They retreated west on Park Avenue, the opposite direction of the first SUV.
In a statement issued at 12:04 a.m. Sunday, the Richmond Police Department said it was investigating a possible assault on an officer who was inside the SUV, as well as “reports on social media that a person in the crowd may have been struck by the vehicle.”
In the second release, issued at 8:18 p.m. Sunday, police said the SUV was “trapped by protesters.”
“Objects were thrown at the vehicle, so officers stayed inside due to safety concerns,” the statement 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.”
Attached to Sunday night’s release were photos of the damage to the vehicle including a dent to a side panel and a shattered rear window.
“The officer drove the police SUV on the curb in an attempt to leave the area and avoid the protesters standing in the middle of the intersection,” the statement continued. “Protestors then surrounded the vehicle.”
This timeline conflicts with the two videos that show that protesters don’t come into contact with the vehicle, or the officers, until the SUV attempts to drive around the protesters and come off of the curb.
The Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project, which has been advocating for external oversight of the police for more than two years, said in a text message that “until elected officials wake up and step into their leadership by taking action on community demands, it’s clear the Richmond Police Department will continue terrorizing our city.”
Several officers have already been pulled from duty after tear gassing a crowd of peaceful protesters at the same statue on June 1. McEachin is investigating that incident as well.