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NAACP demands Riddle resign; Congressman asks DOJ to investigate

Isle of Wight County’s NAACP chapter is calling for the immediate resignation of Windsor Police Chief Rodney “Dan” Riddle following his April 14 press conference.

“We are appalled at some of the statements made by the Town officials as well as the Chief of Police,” said Isle of Wight NAACP President Valerie Butler.

At the conference, Riddle said his decision to fire Officer Joe Gutierrez last Sunday — four months after the officer held a Black Army lieutenant at gunpoint and pepper-spraying him — had more to do with a video of the incident going viral than the incident itself. While he admitted his officers missed opportunities to de-escalate the situation verbally, he blamed 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario for the incident ultimately ending the way it did, saying there were “certain actions” the lieutenant took that raised “red flags” for the responding officers based on their training.

The NAACP previously demanded during its own press conference Monday that Officer Daniel Crocker also be fired. Crocker initiated the Dec. 5 traffic stop and was also seen on video pointing his gun at Nazario, though Riddle and Windsor’s Town Council have both issued statements of support for the officer.

The same day as Riddle’s press conference, Congressman Bobby Scott, whose 3rd Congressional District includes Isle of Wight County, wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland, to ask that the federal Department of Justice open criminal and civil rights investigations into the matter, and into the recent officer-involved shooting of Donovon Lynch in Virginia Beach.

“The residents of Hampton Roads deserve transparency, accountability, and most of all, they deserve the truth about these incidents,” the congressman wrote. “I have long supported evidence-based reforms for local police and the criminal justice system; however, I do not believe an internal review of these events by local police departments will provide the answers our community deserves.”

Lynch was killed the night of March 26 in Virginia Beach as police responded to two shooting incidents. Police initially described Lynch as an “armed citizen,” but Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate later said his officers found a gun “in the vicinity” of the shooting and didn’t have any evidence it belonged to Lynch, the Virginian-Pilot reported. The officer who killed Lynch was wearing a body camera, but it wasn’t activated and investigators don’t know why. There have also been allegations that police moved Lynch’s body, according to Scott’s letter.

Gov. Ralph Northam has already ordered the Virginia State Police to conduct an independent investigation of Windsor’s police department, and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued a press release Monday stating his Office for Civil Rights had requested the department send over numerous records for an investigation of discriminatory and abusive policing patterns spanning the past 10 years. Riddle confirmed at his press conference that there is also a pending federal investigation by the FBI.

The body cam videos are now live on the town’s YouTube channel, accessible via the town’s website: https://www.windsor-va.gov/page/police-stop-december-5,-2020-(nazario)/. The town also briefly uploaded body cam footage from a previous incident Nov. 7 where Nazario was stopped for allegedly speeding through town, but that video was removed the evening of April 15.

According to Windsor Town Manager William Saunders, the video was taken down once he realized there were portions that included some of Nazario’s personal information, including his home address and driver’s license number. The town plans to upload a redacted version.