ACLU renews call for Henrico police to release bodycam footage from officer-involved shooting

Henrico County

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia met with Henrico County’s top prosecutor and police chief Wednesday to look over the bodycam video from a deadly officer-involved shooting last week.

On Sept. 17, two Henrico police officers responded to the 2900 block of Huntwick Court, off Pump Road, around 10:30 a.m. for a welfare check. While checking the home, the officers were confronted by a woman “wielding and swinging an ax,” and were forced to deadly force, according to Henrico police.

The woman who was shot, 57-year-old Gay Ellen Plack, was a registered nurse who surrendered her license back in 2011 after being hospitalized for mental health issues, according to documents obtained by 8News.

Following Wednesday’s meeting, which also included law enforcement officials and community advocates, the ACLU renewed its call for the video to be released and for the officers involved to be named.

8News was permitted to watch the footage last Friday but was not allowed to record it.

READ MORE — ‘Rethink the training’: Brother calls for change after younger sister killed in officer-involved shooting

ACLU of Virginia Director of Strategic Communications Bill Farrar and Director of Advocacy Jenny Glass were joined by Henrico Police Chief Humberto Cardounel and Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor during the meeting and were allowed to watch the bodycam footage from an officer-involved shooting on Sept. 17.

On Monday, Taylor announced that she asked two other commonwealth’s attorneys, Hampton’s Anton Bell and Stafford County’s Eric Olsen, to also review the case. Farrar and Glass said that Taylor’s actions are not enough, stating that “an independent investigation of the incident should be conducted by a prosecutor from another jurisdiction who does not have a working relationship that is intertwined with the law enforcement agency whose employees’ actions are being investigated.”

Farrar and Glass released a joint statement Wednesday following the meeting:

We appreciate the opportunity to view bodycam video recorded during the tragic shooting of Gay Plack by Henrico County Police Department officers on Sept. 17, as well as to be able to discuss concerns directly with Chief Cardounel and Ms. Taylor. Nothing we saw or heard, however, during the meeting has persuaded us that the following should not happen:

          1. All video of the incident should be released to the public immediately.

          2. The names of the two officers who shot Ms. Plack should be released immediately, per our policy that no more than 48 hours should pass after such an incident before that happens.

          3. An independent investigation of the incident should be conducted by a prosecutor from another jurisdiction who does not have a working relationship that is intertwined with the law enforcement agency whose employees’ actions are being investigated.

We commend Chief Cardounel for allowing advocates to view the full video, which he did not have to do.

We commend Ms. Taylor for asking two outside prosecutors to review the eventual results of her investigation, which she did not have to do.

These actions are not enough, however, for full transparency or to assure the public that the investigation of this horrific incident was conducted in an impartial manner. The public trust is more important than any rationale that can be offered for not taking the actions listed above.”

Virginia Director of Strategic Communications Bill Farrar and Director of Advocacy Jenny Glass

Henrico Chief of Police H. I. Cardounel Jr. spoke about the incident in a video released on YouTube. In the video, Cardounel says two officers entered a home in the neighborhood for a welfare check. He said that the officers did not initially find anyone in the house.

The officers, according to Cardounel, eventually found a locked room in the house.

“After several attempts, after announcing their presence, after calling out her name and getting no response, a decision was made to force entry to what was later determined to be a bedroom,” the police chief said in the video. “To, again, to verify there was no one in house in distress.”

Cardounel says the two officers get access to the locked bedroom and one of them enter the bathroom while the other checks around the bed. He then claims that Plack confronted the officer who entered the bathroom while “wielding and swinging an ax.”

The officer was able to get out of the bathroom unharmed, according to Cardounel, but Plack then comes out of the bathroom and charges the other officer in the bedroom “swinging an ax.”

“The officer at that point literally had less than four seconds to make a decision,” Cardounel says in the video. “Made several attempts, pleaded for her to stop.” After Plank refused to stop, according to Cardounel, the officer used deadly force.

“The officer had to make the most difficult decision in his life, in his career, which was to use deadly force,” Cardounel said.

Stay with 8News for updates to this developing story.

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