Local activist organization Defund Charlottesville Police obtained footage of University and Charlottesville Police officers violently detaining a local community member, they announced on social media Nov. 27. The posts condemn the alleged excessive force against a local unhoused Black man who went to the hospital for the injuries caused by police forcibly detaining him on the Corner around 10:40 p.m. on Nov. 16.
Defund Charlottesville Police chose to not release the footage publicly “to refrain from adding to the re-traumatization of persons in BIPOC communities who face excessive violence at the hands of the State every day.”
The Twitter thread cites an eyewitness who approached the situation as three police officers pressed the man’s ribs into a short brick wall. The witness says more than 10 more officers joined, slamming him to the ground, pressing down on his ribs, back and eventually neck.
The witness said police then continued to press down on the man’s neck, claiming he was biting — a claim which Defund Charlottesville Police said is not evident in the video footage — only releasing when another officer instructed them to let go.
“[He] was visibly in pain and was confused during the situation as he did not know why he was being detained or being hurt by the police,” the witness told Defund Charlottesville Police.
The man sustained three broken ribs from the incident and was concerned that he lost $180 worth of food purchased from Sheetz, Defund Charlottesville Police wrote. The officers called an ambulance, purchased water bottles and retrieved two of the bags of food he had dropped, according to the witness account.
The source added that, throughout the incident, the man’s wife continued to ask police why he was being detained, telling the officers that he didn’t do anything, though she was not given a clear response. They said one officer told her that they were attempting to ask him questions to resolve their marital dispute, while another officer said he entered University Grounds in violation of a No Trespass Order.
UPD initially stepped in because of a verbal altercation between the couple, according to a statement issued Nov. 29 by Tim Longo, associate vice president for safety and security and chief of police. His wife provided identification, but the man walked away from the situation, crossed University Ave. to Grounds.
Another UPD officer arrived at the scene and recognized the man from an April incident at U.Va. Hospital, where he was issued an NTO covering all University property after “he became disorderly and refused to leave the property after being given a directive to do so.”
According to Virginia Code Section 18.2-119 and University policy, “violation of a Trespass Warning constitutes a Class 1 Misdemeanor and is grounds for arrest.”
However, according to Longo’s statement, the man did not enter Grounds until he was approached by police and returned off Grounds when officers notified him that he was in violation of the NTO. There, they forcibly restrained him, where he struggled for several minutes until the supervising UPD officer arrived and “intervened in an effort to de-escalate the situation,” Longo said.
The supervising officer instructed the other officers to remove the restraints, and she questioned the other officers about what led to their response and called emergency medical personnel to assess the man’s condition. He left the scene after being assessed by medical staff, Longo said.
The University referred the incident to the Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania for review. The Commonwealth’s Attorney found that none of the officers “acted unlawfully,” Longo wrote.
However, Longo added that UPD is conducting an internal review to determine whether University officers violated any of the department’s policies or standards of conduct. One officer was placed on administrative leave.
“That review will also focus on issues of policy, training and other ways [in which] UPD can improve upon its service to the University and the Charlottesville-Albemarle community,” Longo said. “One officer has been placed on administrative leave since the incident occurred and will remain in this status until the administrative review is complete.”
UPD declined to comment further on the incident until the internal review is complete.
Overall funding for the Office of Safety and Security at the University — which includes UPD — totaled $11,807,678 in 2019 and increased to $15,577,490 in 2020. For both 2019 and 2020, just over half of the annual budget — $7,323,764 and $8,883,519, respectively — was allocated specifically to the police department. The department’s operating expenses were set at $1,051,056 in 2019 and increased to $1,653,217 in 2020.
Defund Charlottesville Police requests that community members support the man harmed in the incident by donating to Congregate Charlottesville.
This article was updated to remove racial profiling allegations made by the Unitarian Universalist Church that were later refuted by Charlottesville's Chief of Police Dr. RaShall Brackney through 911 audio and body camera footage.