Cops, Courts & Prisons


Originally published in the Summer 2020 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 62, printed August 14. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Summer 2020 issue or download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

These are just some of the shootings of civilians by Richmond law enforcement officers over the past 19 years. Unless otherwise noted, all the victims were Black.

LEVESTER CARTER, 22, June 8, 2001 – Shot to death in Fairfield Court. Police report Carter fled a car after a routine traffic stop, wrestled a gun from a pursuing officer, shot the officer and then was shot three times in the chest while pointing the gun at approaching officers. Numerous eyewitnesses reported Carter was shot repeatedly after being wounded and lying unarmed on the ground. The autopsy report obtained by Virginia Defender Editor Phil Wilayto, at the time a staff writer for the Richmond Free Press, revealed that Carter was hit 13 times – 11 times in the back of his body, with 10 shots at an upward angle, showing he was lying face down when hit with those bullets. The case went to a grand jury, but testimony by eyewitnesses was contradicted by others who repeated the police version of the killing.

PABLO HERCULES (Latino), 29, June 10, 2001 – Shot to death by an off-duty Richmond sheriff’s deputy working as a security guard at a restaurant in the 600 block of East Belt Boulevard. Police report Hercules threw rocks at the deputy’s head after being denied entry to the restaurant. A companion of Hercules said the slain man threw some pebbles. Hercules was shot twice in the head.

JAMES A. LEWIS (race not known), 49, Oct. 21, 2001 – Shot to death when police entered his home after he threatened to kill himself and asked his girlfriend to call 911. Reportedly a depressed alcoholic, police said he aimed a gun at an officer. The police shot him four times.

VERLON M. JOHNSON, 29, May 17, 2002 – Shot to death on his front porch in South Side as a nine-member police team attempted to arrest him on robbery and firearms charges. Police report Johnson, naked from the waist up, thrust one hand into his pants pocket and refused to remove it when ordered. No gun was found on or near Johnson. Detective David Melvin, the only officer at the scene to pull his gun, was charged with involuntary manslaughter. Following two mistrials, he was acquitted at the third trial. The City settled out-of-court with Johnson’s widow for an undisclosed amount.

JERAMY ONASSIS GILLIAM (race not known), 26, July 20, 2002 – Shot to death near the 2300 block of Idlewood Avenue by Officer William “Jody” Blackwell, who was investigating a report of a burglary in progress. Police report Gilliam aimed a gun at the officer and was shot during a struggle. The autopsy showed Gilliam was shot twice in the back at close range. His fingerprints did not appear on the recovered weapon, which was found 35 feet from his body. There were no witnesses to the shooting. In June 2020, Blackwell was briefly appointed interim police chief, and then returned to his previous position as a major.

ISAAC JEROME THOMPSON, Dec. 16, 2002 – Shot to death just north of Walmsley Boulevard. Police report Thompson fled after a vehicle stop and fired on officers, hitting one several times. Initial Police Department media release stated the vehicle was stopped for “improper registration.” Police Spokesman Det. Ron Brown was quoted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch as saying it was not immediately clear why Thompson was stopped.

DWAYNE SWANN & TAIQUAN BYRD, Feb. 4, 2004: Both shot and wounded in Hillside Court when police shot into a car the two men had entered while being pursued by police. Neither man was armed. The officers were all in plain clothes, although reportedly wearing vests marked “Richmond Police.” Police report the two men tried to run over an officer. Then-Chief Andre Parker said on Oct. 27 that the officers involved were still on administrative leave and that the incident was being investigated by State Police.

QUINSHAWN BOOKER, 20, May 29, 2004: Shot to death in the 1200 block of Admiral Gravely Boulevard. Police report Booker slipped and shot himself in the head as he was being pursued by officers. The autopsy reported that a bullet entered the back of his head. A witness reported hearing three shots.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN (race not known), June 13, 2004 – Shot to death on Oliver Hill Way at East Clay Street. Police reported the man shot himself in the head after the car in which he was riding was stopped for a traffic violation.

CURTIS BLOUNT, Sept. 20, 2004 – Shot to death in an alley behind a convenience store on Mosby Avenue. Newspaper reports suggested a contact wound to the head. The case was not referred to State Police for review. All officers were returned to duty. Then-Chief Andre Parker refused to discuss the shooting.

KESHAWN HARGROVE, 20, Aug. 5, 2015 – Shot to death in an alley near West Cary and Meadow streets. Police said he was running from officers when he fired at them, hitting one. When then-Chief Alfred Durham arrived on the scene, he immediately announced to the crowd that had gathered that he would not stand for any criticisms of his officers. Virginia Defender Editor Phil Wilayto later reported that he had viewed a video of the incident that showed an officer seemingly taking Hargrove’s pulse three times over several minutes while the man lay bleeding in the alley.

MARCUS-DAVID PETERS, 24, May 24, 2018 – Shot to death on the edge of Interstate 95 while unclothed and experiencing a mental health crisis. At a press conference held at police headquarters, then-Chief Alfred Durham denied that the officer had precipitated the confrontation by approaching Peters, even though the police cam video of the incident clearly shows that the officer had approached him, with a drawn Taser gun. The shooting attracted national attention and has led to local and statewide calls for a Marcus Alert system in which trained mental health professionals would be in the lead in similar situations, with police only available as back-up if needed, with nonlethal force.

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