Virginia family alleges 2019 attack by Richmond Police Department officers in federal lawsuit seeking $2M

Virginia News

Photo from body-camera in federal lawsuit filed Wednesday alleging excessive force by two Richmond police officers in 2019.

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A family filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday alleging an unprovoked attack by two Richmond police officers after a 2019 crash, including claims that one officer struck a woman to the ground and into her daughter during the incident.

The plaintiffs named in the suit, Elder Chacon, Brenda Samayoa and their daughter Nathaly, claim that two officers, William McAuliffe and Jennifer Barlow, used excessive force after a crash in the city on Aug. 7, 2019.

According to the lawsuit, Chacon was driving his truck with Samayoa and their children in the vehicle when they were rear-ended. The suit says the impact caused Chacon’s truck, which was hauling a trailer for his work, to strike two cars in front of him. It alleges the vehicle that initially struck Chacon’s truck drove off immediately after the crash, but not before leaving a dent and “a scuff of red paint on the rear of his trailer.”

“The police were called to the scene of the accident, and Officer McAuliffe and Officer Barlow arrived to investigate. Mr. Chacon and Ms. Samayoa do not speak fluent English and had a difficult time understanding and speaking with the officers,” the lawsuit claims. “Rather than calling a Spanish interpreter for assistance, Officer McAuliffe attempted to communicate with Mr. Chacon and Ms. Samayoa through their twelve-year-old daughter, Nathaly.”

Chacon asserts in the lawsuit that the officers ignored his explanation that another vehicle had caused the crash and tried to give him a ticket for “following too closely.” When he declined to sign the summons and backed away, the lawsuit alleges one officer initiated physical contact with Chacon.

“In a fit of sudden and unprovoked rage, Officer McAuliffe threw his clipboard on the ground and violently grabbed at Mr. Chacon’s person,” the complaint states. “Understandably, Mr. Chacon took several steps back and instinctively placed his hand in front of him to block Officer McAuliffe’s unwarranted physical contact. At no point did Mr. Chacon initiate physical contact with Officer McAuliffe.”

The suit then claims the officer hit Samayoa when she tried to get in between him and Chacon.

“Officer McAuliffe pushed Ms. Samayoa out of the way, striking her in the face and pushing her into Nathaly, who was standing next to her, as Ms. Samayoa fell to the ground,” it alleges.

The suit claims that McAuliffe continued attacking him and that instead of deescalating the situation, Barlow used her taser on Chacon. It continues by arguing that Chacon posed no threat or gave any indication he would before the alleged attack.

“At the time that Officer McAuliffe and Officer Barlow assaulted Mr. Chacon, he was not engaged in any activity suggesting that he posed a threat to officer safety or to any other person.”

A Richmond police spokeswoman told WFXR’s sister station the department does not comment on pending litigation but that the new administration is reviewing the incident and that both officers are still with the department.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, seeks $2 million in damages and a trial by jury. There are photos attached showing body-camera footage from the officers. You can read the full lawsuit below:

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