Jun 8, 2022 - News

Ex-police chief's lawsuit against Richmond mayor advances

Two police officers stand over a fallen Jeff Davis statue.
A statue of Jefferson Davis lies on the street after protesters pulled it down in 2020. Photo: Parker Michels-Boyce/AFP via Getty Images

Two years after the 2020 killing of George Floyd touched off a summer of protests, the city is still fending off legal challenges, including from the former chief of police.

What's happening: A Richmond judge gave a green light last week to a $5 million wrongful termination lawsuit that former interim police chief William "Jody" Blackwell filed against Mayor Levar Stoney.

  • Blackwell served as chief for just 11 days during the height of the protests.
  • In his lawsuit, he alleges Stoney fired him for refusing to send officers to stand guard as crews removed Confederate monuments in 2020.
  • Blackwell argues the mayor's emergency order to remove the statues was illegal because a state law addressing the issue had not yet gone into effect.

Judge William R. Marchant ruled Blackwell's allegations that Stoney acted in bad faith are sufficient to merit a full trial, rejecting Stoney's motion to dismiss.

  • "I believe that it was illegal at that time," Marchant said of the Confederate statue removal.

Meanwhile, Blackwell and dozens of other police officials and officers are facing a sprawling new federal lawsuit that alleges an array of police abuses.

  • The plaintiffs include two former editors at VCU's student newspaper and two protesters who documented the 2020 demonstrations extensively on Twitter.
  • The lawsuit, filed at the end of last month, alleges that the defendant officers violated the plaintiffs' First Amendment rights by targeting them with tear gas and pepper spray.
  • Some of the plaintiffs also allege officers followed them around the city, harassed them on Twitter and singled them out for arrest on charges that were later dismissed.

Catch up fast: At last report, the city had paid out nearly $700,000 to settle lawsuits related to the 2020 protests.

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