HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Henrico’s Police Chief is responding to a viral social media post claiming officers entered a man’s home ‘unannounced’ several times over the past few months, with the latest incident happening over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
The victim, a homeowner in the county’s east end, took to Twitter Friday to share his side of what happened. The post has garnered more than 6,000 likes and 1,500 retweets.
Chief Eric English decided to address the series of tweets during an online press conference Tuesday morning, acknowledging the most recent incident. The department confirmed that the most recent incident is not the first time it has happened to this particular resident.
“It really could have been a bad situation that we really need to rectify to ensure that it does not occur,” English said.
The victim says he was asleep in his home Friday night and woke up to at least three Henrico police officers in his bedroom with “guns and flashlights”. Although he is remaining anonymous at this time for legal reasons, 8News spoke with the victim on Tuesday. He shares it was a terrifying moment that was triggering and he needs time to process and heal. He also confirmed that Henrico officers have entered his home unannounced three times in the last four months.
Chief English said officers responded to the victim’s home because they received a call from an alarm company regarding a medical alert. English says the call was concerning with a woman yelling out for help.
Henrico Police released a statement reading, in part,:
Henrico Police does not respond to all medical emergency calls for service, however, there are circumstances in which officers respond to ensure the safety and well-being of first-responders, possible victims, and the community. The alarm company indicated there was a person yelling for help in the incidents in which police responded.”Henrico Police Department
The GPS medical alert device routed officers to the victim’s home. Chief English explained what happened when officers arrived.
“We were not able to get an answer at the door and the decision was made to enter the residence,” English said. “The thought process is that there may be someone down inside the house that needs medical help.”
However, the third-party alarm company sent officers to the wrong location. The victim tweeting out, “problem is, I’m a Black man in 2020 with police in my bedroom.”
He also shared that officers entered his home through an unlocked window.
Chief English says he has been in constant contact with the victim since he learned of Friday’s incident and has made it clear that this will never happen again. The victim told 8News he does not feel safe, however. He says he and his family are packing up now and moving immediately because he might not be so lucky if there is a next time.
Officers were wearing body cameras, which Chief English said he has reviewed and concluded officers never drew their weapons. He says they shouldn’t have because they showed up for a medical call to render aid. He also says it was a joint operation with the Henrico Fire, who also was present at the scene.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Chief English empathized with the victim and his feelings during this time and cultural climate.
“That’s definitely scary, you wake up in the middle of the night and you have individuals in your home,” English said. “It’s one of those situations where you’re trying to do the right thing to provide aid and the person we were looking for was not there.”
Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor also spoke and said she supports Chief English’s handling of the incident and open communication.
“I’m totally in support of the approach we are taking,” Taylor said. “I think the most important thing is to let the citizens know that when this matter was brought to my attention, we responded as quickly as possible.”
The department’s internal affairs are investigating the incident as well as the third-party company involved. English says mistakes like this could delay someone from getting the help they really need while putting officers in a precarious situation and residents in a scary situation.
8News asked Henrico Police for a copy of the body camera footage, but the department says they are not releasing it out of privacy for the individual involved.