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Richmond man seen pepper-sprayed in video files suit against city, officer

As Smith filmed the officers after a night of protests, riots and looting, one deployed pepper spray in the direction of his open window. He says the chemical agent reached him and his belongings inside the apartment. 

Capital News Service

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By Andrew Ringle

“They sprayed innocent people.”

That’s what Richmond resident Mikhail Smith said drove him to lean outside his apartment window in the early morning hours of May 31 and start filming what would soon become a viral video — police officers pepper-spraying pedestrians on the sidewalk outside his home.

As Smith filmed the officers after a night of protests, riots, and looting, one deployed pepper spray in the direction of his open window. He says the chemical agent reached him and his belongings inside the apartment.

Smith has now filed a lawsuit against the city and the unnamed officer. Smith said he is seeking $400,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

“I wish I could say it was the pepper spray that hurt the most,” Smith said in a news release. “It was not.”

Smith said he was “enraged and traumatized” after seeing police use force on “innocent people.”

After gaining attention on social media for the video, Smith said he endured “vitriol, hate, and unspeakable threats of violence.”

“Because of police action, I no longer have the privilege of just being an American living in peace,” Smith said. “I am emotionally in a state of war.”

Smith has attended demonstrations in Richmond since the death of George Floyd in May. Floyd died in Minneapolis while in police custody. On June 2, Mikhail Smith spoke directly to former Richmond Police Chief William Smith during a town hall held by Mayor Levar Stoney.

“I protest the police that do not do their job,” Mikhail Smith said. “This is not a war against police; this is a war against police brutality.”

Mikhail Smith said he does not take the legal action lightly and he does not intend to disrespect public safety institutions.

“I am not here to throw bricks at cop cars or at local shops downtown,” Mikhail Smith said. “I am here today laying brick-by-brick a monument that should stand as a monument to all the stress, pain, and anguish in my life and the lives of others.”

Chesterfield attorneys Gary Reinhardt and W. Barry Montgomery are representing Mikhail Smith in the lawsuit.

The Richmond Police Department did not respond to a request for comments.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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City to provide grants to businesses damaged during recent civil unrest

“Though many protests have been peaceful, sporadic nights of severe property damage have hurt our small business community,” said Mayor Stoney. “These grants will help those establishments get back on their feet and send a message to the owners and employees of those businesses that they’re heard, they’re valued and we’re in this together.”

RVAHub Staff

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The City of Richmond has recommended that City Council allocate $500,000 to create the Business Recovery Grant Program. Under this new, one-time program, grants will be awarded to eligible local businesses, non-profit organizations, and commercial property owners to recover costs from damage during recent demonstrations within city limits.

“Though many protests have been peaceful, sporadic nights of severe property damage have hurt our small business community,” said Mayor Stoney. “These grants will help those establishments get back on their feet and send a message to the owners and employees of those businesses that they’re heard, they’re valued and we’re in this together.”

The grants will be a reimbursement of expenses paid to repair property destruction during the recent civil unrest.  This could include window repair, graffiti removal and more. The maximum grant award is $10,000 for a single commercial property address.

The city’s Commercial Area Revitalization Effort (CARE) Program is the proposed funding source for the one-time grant program. The normal CARE Program grants will not be impacted by the creation of the one-time grant program.

If funding for the Business Recovery Grant Program is approved during the August 10, 2020 City Council meeting, the program guidelines will be posted on the city website and applications can be submitted electronically starting August 13.

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Crime

City introduces ordinance to prohibit firearms adjacent to events requiring permitting

Currently, the code bans firearms in city-owned and -operated parks and facilities. The newly introduced ordinance would also prohibit the possession, carrying, or transportation of any firearms in any public street, road, alley, sidewalk, public right-of-way, or any open public space when it is being used by, or is adjacent to, an event that requires a city permit. 

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At the August 10 meeting of the Richmond City Council, the Stoney administration introduced an ordinance to modify current Richmond City Code section 19-334.1; Carrying Firearms in Certain Places.

Currently, the code bans firearms in city-owned and -operated parks and facilities. The newly introduced ordinance would also prohibit the possession, carrying, or transportation of any firearms in any public street, road, alley, sidewalk, public right-of-way, or any open public space when it is being used by, or is adjacent to, an event that requires a city permit.

This ordinance does not broadly ban firearms in these public spaces. Rather, it bans firearms when a permitted event, or an event that should be permitted, is taking place.

The expansion to the existing ordinance is intended to promote the health and safety of event attendees and city residents as a whole.

“The City of Richmond proudly hosts hundreds of public events each year, but I believe it’s in the interest of everyone’s safety to take guns out of these spaces when neighbors, visitors and families gather,” said Mayor Stoney. “Under this proposed change, Richmond residents will be able to attend public events with a greater sense of security, knowing that the city is actively prioritizing their safety.”

In 2019, the mayor introduced the ordinance that prohibits the carrying of firearms in city-owned and -operated parks and facilities. As soon as the General Assembly adopted legislation granting that authority to localities, the ordinance went into effect.

This most recent proposed change is also made possible by a recent amendment by the Virginia General Assembly to the Code of Virginia, which now authorizes localities to prohibit firearms in this instance.

“As a city, we must exhaust all possible options to reduce gun violence in our communities and neighborhoods,” said Mayor Stoney. “I’m thankful the state has finally given us a vital tool in building a safer Richmond.”

The proposed ordinance, which must be approved by Richmond City Council to take effect, does not apply to authorized military personnel in the performance of their lawful duties, law enforcement officers or security guards contracted or employed by the City of Richmond.

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Richmond Police seeking public’s help in locating missing child in alleged parental abduction

The Richmond Police Department is asking for the public’s help in locating a missing child, Kamill Jones, 2, whose mother is wanted for parental abduction.

RVAHub Staff

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The Richmond Police Department is asking for the public’s help in locating a missing child, Kamill Jones, 2, whose mother is wanted for parental abduction.

Erica Jones, 26, was last seen on July 16 in the 1100 block of Cypress Street when she picked up the child from family members. She was due to return Kamill to family members on July 18 but has not returned. Erica Jones does not have legal custody of Kamill Jones. They may still be in the area. Photos of mother and daughter are attached.

Erica Jones is approximately 5’ 3” and weighs about 200 pounds.

Anyone with information on Erica Jones or Kamill Jones is asked to call Detective J. Hewitt at (804) 646-6870 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at www.crimestoppersrichmondvirginia.com.

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