RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Our sister-station WRIC has learned that misdemeanor assault and battery charges against two Richmond Police Officers stems from an incident in May, the first weekend of unrest in the city.
Officer Christopher Brown and Officer Mark Janowski were both indicted after a grand jury’s decision Monday, following an incident that occurred the weekend of May 30-31.
According to Richmond police on Tuesday, the charges stem from a single incident around 5:30 a.m. in the 200 block of West Broad Street, between North Madison and North Jefferson streets, on Sunday, May 31.
The grand jury found enough evidence to criminally charge both Brown and Janowski for their alleged actions together, following Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin turning over 18 indictments to a grand jury Monday, Oct 5.
Indictments were against eight officers as a result of the last few months of demonstrations. Just the two officers were eventually charged.
The incident in question, involving officers Brown and Janowski, occurred the same weekend Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s implemented a citywide curfew. Stoney’s declaration came after demonstrators continually clashed with police in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
In some instances that weekend, tear gas and rubber bullets were deployed by police. 8News also witnessed some demonstrators throwing tear gas canisters back at police officers and setting fires in the city.
WRIC reached out to legal analyst Russ Stone to learn more about the severity of both officers’ charges what he expects could come from them. However, it’s hard to predict, he says, because what the officers are specifically accused of hasn’t yet been released. We know they’ve been charged with misdemeanor assault and battery.
“In the context of protesting and rioting, the fact of the matter is that could include a whole lot of possibilities,” Stone said.
Stone explained that in layman’s terms, an assault and battery charge is vaguely described as a forcibly touching someone out of spite or “meanness”.
“So I would suspect, again not knowing the specifics of the allegations are, that there’s going to be an argument made that what these officers did was pursuant to their jobs and they were required to do it.”
Political analyst Rich Meagher also weighed in, adding that “very rarely does it happen that there’s some type of indictment or prosecution for something a police officer does as a police officer in the line of duty.”
“I don’t think that defenders of law enforcement are going to be happy about these two indictments, and I don’t think that critics of law enforcement are going to be happy that there are only two. But it does suggest that there’s movement toward reform,” he added.
Councilman Mike Jones, who has called for police defunding and reform in recent weeks, says the officers deserve due processing. Other councilmembers did not agree to an on-camera interview Tuesday.
“Everyone is innocent until proven guilty,” Jones said. “Even these officers in this particular case.”
On Tuesday, WRIC asked Richmond Commonwealth Attorney when we can expect more details about the allegations. “I have no further comment,” she wrote back.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney released the following statement Tuesday:
Good police departments welcome accountability. I appreciate the work of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and the cooperation of the Richmond Police Department to ensure public safety accountability for the Richmond community.”Statement from Mayor Levar Stoney
The two officers are expected in court on Wednesday at 9 a.m.