Richmond Copwatch met Friday night at 6pm to do Copwatch patrols during the monthly First Fridays Art Walk on Broad and Marshall streets downtown.One Copwatcher went into Rite Aid to purchase some drinks. The rest (about 12 at that point) were waiting on the edge of the parking lot.
Before Copwatch even split off into separate patrols, a Richmond Cop- Toney Waldorf of the 4th precinct – pulled into the Rite- Aid parking lot where we were meeting. He parked quickly and at an angle, and then exited his vehicle. He called out “Hey What Are You Doing”, to 2 Copwatchers – Z and M- who were walking past his car towards Broad street. One Copwatcher, M, replied, “Am I Being Detained?”. The Cop did not identify himself or express what it was he wanted from anyone in that area. He finally exclaimed “I’m not talking to you” and then jumped in front of the Copwatcher, Z, on the outside of the pair (farther away from him). Waldorf the cop, unsheathed his Tazer and held it in a firing stance in Z’s face.
The Tazer was about 2 feet from his face, and the cop held it out while yelling about how Z should have stopped walking faster (even though it was by no means clear who that cop was talking to or what he wanted from whoever he was directing his attention towards).
The cop - Waldorf- already tall, stood on the median of the parking lot, putting his tazer (which he is holding with 2 hands in a firing stance) at Z's face level. Z did nothing to resist, reached for no potential weapon, and essentially did nothing threatening in any way which could have justified Waldorf's use of potentially lethal force.
When other police arrived they started telling the Copwatchers to leave the Rite Aid parking lot. Copwatchers, still filming, all cooperated and moved to exit the parking lot. While M was walking backwards out of the parking lot, filming, one Cop who’s embroidered tag said “Stone” refused to identify himself by name and code number. While he aggressively invaded M’s space, M continued to walk backwards towards the exit. Stone committed Battery on M by grabbing her arm to push her at one point, while she continued to exit the parking lot. He also completely violated RPD’s protocol by refusing to identify himself.
Here is part of Z’s personal account:
“After waiting outside of the Rite Aid for a friend to retrieve some drinks, me and another friend were walking away to observe Richmond’s first Friday event. While we were walking away a police car pulled up and an officer got out asking to speak with us.
I said “what? No, why?” and continued to walk slowly away
M said “are we being detained?”
Police said “I’m talking to him”
M repeated “are we being detained?”
The police officer darted in front of us and pulled out his Tazer pointing it at me telling me to stop where I was. He told me to walk over to the back of his car which I did and he continued to question me and take my ID. He asked me for my social security number and when I refused he threatened to spend hours dealing with me and to take me downtown. I begrudgingly gave this stranger my SS number after being so threatened. While he looked me up in his car two other officers berated me with questions. One of the officers was very rude and spoke of his beliefs that human nature was full of evil. He also believed that someone from Copwatch was probably the person that called them in the first place so that we could have another chance to “martyr” ourselves. He got very heated trying to tell me all about how our few minutes of waiting outside of the Rite Aid for our friend was loitering since it was posted that we were not allowed. Another officer came up later demanding that he be able to take my picture (to which I did not give consent) because they couldn’t find me in the system.
This being a rather abrupt and excessive use of force concerns me greatly. This officer almost tazed me for not answering his questions quickly enough. All of this harassment happened because he suspected I may be the person Rite Aid called the police on for smoking Cannabis. I believe our presence as members of Copwatch greatly affected his choice to escalate force so quickly.” (more…)