Virginia Police Chief Resigns After Violent Police Response to Protest

Police in riot gear prepare to disperse a group of protesters as they march through downtown for a third night of unrest Sunday May 31, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Gov. Ralph Northam issued a curfew for this evening. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
AP Photo/Steve Helber

Mayor Levar Stoney announced Richmond Police Chief Will Smith’s resignation on Tuesday, following a violent response to the ongoing protests.

On Saturday night, a Richmond Police SUV drove through a crowd of protesters at the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue in an episode that quickly went south. “It turned violent,” witness Jimmie Lee Jarvis said. “But the first act of violence was from the police.”

And while Jarvis admitted that he was unable to see everything that happened through the crowd, he did claim to see officers “very eagerly deploying pepper spray at people who were not doing anything” aside from shouting. “I saw many protesters who were vomiting, crying,” Jarvis recalled. “I saw people kind of collapsing on the ground.”

By Tuesday, Mayor Stoney accepted Chief Smith’s resignation. He also announced that Maj. Jody Blackwell will serve as interim police chief until a permanent replacement has been appointed.

“At a very minimum, I expect [the police] to be able to come to the table with the community to reform public safety. So it boils down to whether the leadership of [the Richmond Police] embraces the change,” Stoney said during a press conference.

“That is why, as of this morning, I requested Chief Smith’s resignation and he accepted,” he continued. “I want to take a minute to say, Chief Smith is a good man. He served this city for a very long time. He put his heart and soul into service in this department and to this city, and I thank him.”

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