New: Witness says tap on the shoulder provoked choke-hold. Click here for the updated story.
Richmond Police say a YouTube video that appears to show an officer lunging at and choking a man at the Shamrock the Block festival Saturday is being reviewed by department administrators.
Police spokeswoman Dionne Waugh says the review will be conducted by the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility and is still in its infancy. She says the department currently has no other details to release. Richmond Police didn’t immediately identify the officers involved in the arrests or those arrested at the annual St. Patrick’s Day street festival in Shockoe Bottom.
Two separate videos, including one titled “Cops choke out drunk at shamrock the block 2013,” were uploaded to YouTube Sunday evening and show the incident, which begins as police deal with an apparently intoxicated man wearing nothing but green boxer briefs.
Over the course of several minutes, the situation deteriorates. Following what in the video appears to be a verbal exchange between a separate, clothed man and an officer, a brawl ensues (at 2:35 in the above video). The video shows the officer stepping toward the man, grabbing his neck and wrestling him against a wall.
The man fights back and at one point pins the officer to the ground before a police sergeant with a telescoping night stick intervenes, striking the subject several times. Once the man is subdued, the sergeant gets up and begins to push a crowd of onlookers away from the scene, telling them, “Y’all back the fuck up.”
Steve Benjamin, a Richmond Defense attorney, says it’s not clear from the video alone whether the officer’s actions are justified.
“Looking at this, I cannot say the officer was acting inappropriately,” he says. “One thing that’s obvious is that the only people who will be able to accurately assess the officer’s actions will be those who are able to interview the witnesses involved, including the officers, to determine all the facts -- all of the surrounding circumstances."
Benjamin says that based on the video alone it looks like police handled the situation as well as possible.
“From what I have seen, it appears that the officer was acting appropriately to maintain control of a volatile situation,” he says. “They obviously had to work very hard to calm down the first individual. … They eventually get him calm, but the crowd appears to be aggravating the situation. Then this one guy appears to move back in on the situation that they now have under control. We don’t know what he’s saying or doing and we’re missing an essential part of the video because the camera pans down to the ground, but when it comes back up, he’s clearly in the officer’s space.”
Richmonders reacting to the video on Twitter interpreted the video very differently:
@ksiddall thats the most disturbing thing I’ve seen in a long time— Nick Dawson (@nickdawson) March 18, 2013
@nickdawson agreed. I am pro police. I support the RPD. You'd never see this with the older generation of police. The newer RPD scare me— Kira Siddall (@KSiddall) March 18, 2013
And, for the record, here's the second video of the altercation: