Virginia officers appear in court for charges stemming from protests

EDS NOTE: OBSCENITY - FILE - In this Monday June 8, 2020, file photo, an image of George Floyd is projected on the base of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. The statue has been the focal point of protester over the death of George Floyd. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered the removal of the statue. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File) (Steve Helber, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

RICHMOND, Va. – Two Virginia police officers indicted on misdemeanor charges stemming from actions during May protests against police brutality and racial injustice have been released on their own recognizance after making their first appearance in court.

Richmond Police Officers Mark Janowski and Christopher Brown have been charged with assault and battery in connection with a single incident that happened about 5:30 a.m. on May 31, the Richmond Times-Dispatch quoted Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin as saying.

McEachin declined to discuss the specific allegations against the officers, and would not identify the detectives' accuser or accusers. Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith also declined to comment while the case is pending.

Janowski, 34, and Brown, 28, were indicted on the charges Monday by a grand jury that initially deliberated 18 indictments for actions involving eight officers, Smith said. The jury only moved forward on the charges against Janowski and Brown, who have been placed on administrative assignment. The other six officers have returned to duty.

One of the attorneys representing Janowski, Peter Baruch said police faced “unimaginable” challenges during the protests, and he said he knows “many officers” who were injured during the protests. “They were faced with circumstances that were unprecedented,” Baruch said. “The city was literally on fire in many places.”

Brown’s attorney, Jason Anthony, declined to comment.

The Black Lives Matter protests in Richmond were sparked by the death of George Floyd, an African American man killed while in police custody in Minneapolis.

In Richmond, protesters have raised various concerns over how police have responded to demonstrations.

In July, McEachin’s office cleared Richmond police of wrongdoing after reviewing five civil complaints. The office had investigated whether an officer deliberately drove a vehicle through a crowd of protesters in June and whether an officer spat on a protester.

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