RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Two Richmond police officers indicted on three misdemeanor counts of assault and battery during civil unrest in 2020 have had all charges against them dismissed after fulfilling an agreement with the city’s top prosecutor.
Officers Christopher Brown and Mark Janowski were accused of using a chemical irritant called O.C. fogger on three young women who were inside a car stopped at an intersection in the early morning hours of May 31, 2020.
They were ultimately indicted by a grand jury on three misdemeanor assault and battery charges in October 2020. Brown and Janowski were the only two officers charged after the grand jury considered 18 counts against eight Richmond officers following civil unrest that summer in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky.
Last November, Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin and the attorneys for Brown and Janowski — Peter B. Baruch, Edward K. Nickel and Jacqueline M. Reiner – revealed that an agreement had been reached in the case.
Details of the agreement were not shared in court then, but some were provided during a hearing on Thursday. Brown and Janowski agreed to meet with the young women from the alleged incident as part of the Virginia Center for Restorative Justice program.
McEachin said during the hearing that one of the women, only described as a 19-year-old, ultimately met with Brown and Janowski and they had “a very honest exchange” but the other two women were not “available” for the meeting.
In court Thursday, McEachin said the one woman who did attend the meeting apologized to Brown and Janowski and informed those involved in the meeting that she believed the officers should return to their full duties. Following the hearing, McEachin said that Brown and Janowski also apologized to the woman during the meeting.
Both officers were placed on administrative leave after being charged but remain employed by the department, 8News learned through a public records request.
After the hearing, McEachin told reporters that the other two women had agreed to take part in the meeting but ended up not being involved for a reason that was not shared.
When asked why the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office sought such an agreement, McEachin told 8News that it required the consent of all parties and that her office “always tries to find ways to resolve issues using restorative justice.”
McEachin also told 8News after Thursday’s hearing that Brown and Janowski both “completed over 100 hours of community service.”
In court documents, city prosecutors claimed the young women, ages 17 to 19 at the time, were at a red light on North Belvedere Street when they began shouting obscenities at a group of officers in the area. The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office said body-camera video was reviewed in the case.
Prosecutors wrote in a court filing, “As the victims were shouting at the police, one officer in the group of officers shouted to the victims, ‘Why don’t you get out of the car?’ Another officer in the group then said, ‘Spray ‘em, it doesn’t matter, f— it, spray ‘em.’ At that moment, Brown and Janowski left the sidewalk, walked across two travel lanes and approached the passenger side of the victims’ vehicle.”
Janowski then allegedly sprayed O.C. fog into the open window “at the heads and faces of the victims,” despite being trained not to do so according to the prosecutor’s filing. Brown followed up and did the same as Janowski, prosecutors claimed in court documents.
The attorneys for Janowski and Brown signaled an interest to have charges expunged from their clients’ records and the case’s records sealed, moves McEachin did not object to in court. The officers’ attorneys would need to file a petition with the court for an expungement.
“Now that the criminal matter has concluded we will now begin our internal administrative investigation,” a Richmond police spokesperson said in an email.