Virginia attorney files federal lawsuit against Roanoke Police Department

0
61
Virginia attorney files federal lawsuit against Roanoke Police Department

Reynolds, who is Black, said in her complaint that her stepson’s acquittal upset local law enforcement officials, including two White City police officers who questioned her stepson during the murder investigation or testified against him during the murder investigation.

The story continues under the advertisement

The two officers – Lt. John Haley and Sgt. Joel Camp – participated in the search of their home on September 29, 2019, three days after their stepson was found not guilty of murder and released, the complaint said.

Camp and Haley said Thursday they would not be able to comment on any pending litigation. The officers referred questions to Timothy Spencer, Roanoke City attorney. Spencer said the lawsuit was unfounded.

“We believe many, if not most, of the allegations made in the complaint are false, and we believe that strong evidence will support this,” said Spencer. He said Reynolds’ own court complaints confirm that police raided her home with an arrest warrant, although Reynolds questions the warrant’s validity.

The story continues under the advertisement

The search warrant was based on Camp’s affidavit that a federal agent forwarded a confidential informant’s lead on the whereabouts of teenage police charged with murder in an unrelated case, court records show.

The federal lawsuit, first reported by the Roanoke Times, comes because the nation has been grappling with inflamed racial and police tensions since the death of George Floyd last year. On Tuesday, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who held Floyd by pressing his knee to his neck, resulting in Floyd’s death, was convicted of murder and manslaughter.

Reynolds’ complaint traces the search of her home back to March 2019 when her stepson Darreonta Lamar Reynolds, then 24, was suspected of a homicide investigation.

The story continues under the advertisement

Roanoke Police, including Camp, questioned Reynolds about a fatal shootout that occurred on February 24 at a Triangle Mart in northwest Roanoke. Police said an off duty worker, Jean De Dieu Nkurunziza, 26, was killed after an argument with the gunman, who was driving off in a black Lexus.

Cathy Reynolds, whose linked-in account identifies her as an immigration attorney, escorted her stepson to police headquarters and acted as his attorney when he voluntarily submitted to questioning, the complaint said. Cathy Reynolds continued to represent her stepson as part of his defense team following his March 5 indictment.

The story continues under the advertisement

Prosecutors argued that Darreonta Reynolds quarreled with Nkurunziza after Nkurunziza had an interaction with Reynolds’ girlfriend that made him jealous.

According to reports from the trial, testimony and security videos revealed that the two men fought and Nkurunziza took a gun from the store to confront Reynolds. Reynolds shot once and killed Nkurunziza before driving off. Toxicological results indicated that Nkurunziza, a 26-year-old Tanzanian immigrant, drank and used methamphetamine.

Darreonta Reynolds admitted the shooting but said he did so in self-defense. His stepmother was by his side in the courtroom when the jury, after 90 minutes of deliberation, pronounced a non-guilty verdict.

The story continues under the advertisement

Police raided the Reynoldses’ home three days later. Before the search began, the complaint alleges that an official who visited the house in March 2019 to question her stepson made a comment about recent home renovations that Cathy Reynolds interpreted as a threat, the newspaper said Complaint .

“I see you have your house ready,” the complaint quoted the officials as saying.

“I think my client felt it was a threat when he said, ‘It looks like you did a lot of work on the house’ and then tore up the house,” said Joshua H. Erlich, a civil rights attorney in Arlington.

The search warrant that came with the lawsuit said an alcohol, firearms and explosives bureau agent reported, citing a trusted informant, that a murder suspect was seen in an unrelated case with Darreonta Reynolds. The warrant said suspect Ozmeik Rae’Quan Clements was discovered on the porch of the Reynoldses house. The informant had seen Clements there more than once and believed he could live there.

The story continues under the advertisement

Cathy Reynolds’ lawsuit and her lawyer said they believe the information in the warrant was fabricated or based on an indication that had not been properly verified.

“We are of the firm belief that there is no confidential informant,” said Erlich.

Reynolds also claims that the two hour search went well beyond what would have been necessary to locate a person and damaged many things in their home. The police did not find Clements, then 17, at home. He was later arrested and pleaded guilty to killing Savion Scales, 17.

Erlich said the raid was solely intended to terrorize the Reynolds family as police forced entry into the house despite consenting to the search and not requiring an arrest warrant. Erlich also said the suspect Clements was unknown to Cathy Reynolds and her husband.

The story continues under the advertisement

“I’m pretty sure he is unknown to her stepson too,” said Erlich.

Reynolds’ lawsuit alleges that the search of her home was racially motivated because she was singled out while the white lawyers she worked with to defend her stepson were not searched.

Roanoke Police Chief Sam Roman did not respond to an email and phone call for comment.

Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.